Britain has done so much for me - I just need one thing more

Like so many millions of people in this country I was horrified by that picture of a little Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach last week.  And since then I’ve been very moved by the public’s response, not just in support of Syrian refugees but others such as Iraqis too. It’s really touched my heart because I am an Iraqi refugee who was resettled to the UK five years ago with the help of Refugee Action.  

In Iraq I had been working as an interpreter for British forces.  I took the job because I needed to support my family.  But it was very dangerous.  In one instance, seventeen of my colleagues, travelling home together from an army base, were kidnapped and executed.  Militants used brutal methods to deter people - those who didn’t stop were killed. The security situation got so bad that in the end I applied for resettlement and in 2012 I was accepted. 

I will always be grateful to Britain for welcoming me, my wife and two daughters. But we are just the tip of the iceberg. Many more families in Syria and Iraq are in need. Sadly only a small number of refugees are resettled here - fewer than a thousand a year from around the world, and only a couple of hundred from the recent Syrian conflict. Meanwhile the UNHCR, who along with Refugee Action helped me to resettle, estimates that nearly a million other people are in need of resettlement worldwide. Even with the recent announcement from the government the scale of resettlement in Britain is small. 

I would like to think that my adopted country Britain could do more to help.  But for that to happen the huge outpouring of support for refugees from members of the public in recent days needs to be maintained.  

Where I live in Greater Manchester, and across the country, lots of people have been phoning refugee charities pledging money, or offering to donate food and clothes, or even saying they’ll take refugees into their own homes.  These are wonderful signs of support and I hope they will continue. But if there’s one thing I would ask people to do now it is to take part in Saturday’sNational Day of Action in solidarity with refugees.

There’s a big march in London – which I will be travelling to from Manchester. And there are similar events taking place in many other cities and towns around the country.  If, as I hope, there is a big turn out and lots of support from people on social media it will send a powerful signal to the government that Britain wants to show more compassion to people fleeing Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and other conflict zones.  

Every single person who takes part on Saturday will be making a difference.  So if you care about refugees and want Britain to do more, nothing else you are thinking of doing on Saturday matters more than joining the Day of Action. 

For more information about the Solidarity with Refugees demo in London: www.facebook.com/events/1047978998546751/

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“Brexit is based on racism”: Who is protesting outside the Supreme Court and what are they fighting for?

Movement for Justice is challenging the racist potential of Brexit, as the government appeals the High Court's Article 50 decision.

Protestors from the campaign group Movement for Justice are demonstrating outside the Supreme Court for the second day running. They are against the government triggering Article 50 without asking MPs, and are protesting against the Brexit vote in general. They plan to remain outside the Supreme Court for the duration of the case, as the government appeals the recent High Court ruling in favour of Parliament.

Their banners call to "STOP the scapgoating of immigrants", to "Build the movement against austerity & FOR equality", and to "Stop Brexit Fight Racism".

The group led Saturday’s march at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre, where a crowd of over 2,000 people stood against the government’s immigration policy, and the management of the centre, which has long been under fire for claims of abuse against detainees.  

Movement for Justice, and its 50 campaigners, were in the company yesterday of people from all walks of pro and anti-Brexit life, including the hangers-on from former Ukip leader Nigel Farage’s postponed march on the Supreme Court.

Antonia Bright, one of the campaign’s lead figures, says: “It is in the interests of our fight for freedom of movement that the Supreme Court blocks May’s attempt to rush through an anti-immigrant deal.”

This sentiment is echoed by campaigners on both sides of the referendum, many of whom believe that Parliament should be involved.

Alongside refuting the royal prerogative, the group criticises the Brexit vote in general. Bright says:

“The bottom line is that Brexit represents an anti-immigrant movement. It is based on racism, so regardless of how people intended their vote, it will still be a decision that is an attack on immigration.”

A crucial concern for the group is that the terms of the agreement will set a precedent for anti-immigrant policies that will heighten aggression against ethnic communities.

This concern isn’t entirely unfounded. The National Police Chief’s Council recorded a 58 per cent spike in hate crimes in the week following the referendum. Over the course of the month, this averaged as a 41 per cent increase, compared with the same time the following year.

The subtext of Bright's statement is not only a dissatisfaction with the result of the EU referendum, but the process of the vote itself. It voices a concern heard many times since the vote that a referendum is far too simple a process for a desicion of such momentous consequences. She also draws on the gaping hole between people's voting intentions and the policy that is implemented.

This is particularly troubling when the competitive nature of multilateral bargaining allows the government to keep its cards close to its chest on critical issues such as freedom of movement and trade agreements. Bright insists that this, “is not a democratic process at all”.

“We want to positively say that there does need to be scrutiny and transparency, and an opening up of this question, not just a rushing through on the royal prerogative,” she adds. “There needs to be transparency in everything that is being negotiated and discussed in the public realm.”

For campaigners, the use of royal prerogative is a sinister symbol of the government deciding whatever it likes, without consulting Parliament or voters, during the future Brexit negotiations. A ruling in the Supreme Court in favour of a parliamentary vote would present a small but important reassurance against these fears.