The Refugee Council, under its Just.Fair banner, joined thousands of people for a rally in London on Bank Holiday Monday calling for an amnesty for illegal migrants. The event was organised by the “Strangers into Citizens” campaign, which wants to see a one-off “regularisation” of refused asylum-seekers and visa overstayers who have been in the UK for more than four years. The initiative, modelled on similar schemes in the EU, seeks to give undocumented migrants and refused asylum seekers legal status to remain in the UK and to work. The Trafalgar Square rally, which was attended by a wide range of faith groups, community activists, trade unionists and others, followed a mass at Westminster Cathedral.
The Refugee Council’s Director of Communications, Tim Finch, said: “The Refugee Council shares many of the aims of the Strangers into Citizens campaign, in particular the need to end the asylum log jam which leaves so many thousands of people in destitution at the end of the process. Refugees want to support themselves if they can, but like other migrants they don’t want to be forced into the shadow economy where they are working illegally and are likely to be exploited. Critics say “These people shouldn’t be here, we should send them home.” But in many cases, people have been wrongly denied protection, in others return is not an option because it is too dangerous. We believe that as long as people are in this country they should be allowed to work or should receive a decent level of benefits. “