The past year has seen a growing refugee crisis as European governments fail to agree any kind of coherent policy to support the hundreds of thousands of desperate people fleeing war zones in the hope of a stable life in Europe.
Instead of mobilising the huge resources of the European Union to prevent people drowning in the Mediterranean, provide emergency shelter, food and medical aid, and agreeing a plan to help people find work so they can support themselves, refugees have been met with a barrage of racism, razor wire, and brutality. The barbarity of the government response includes removal of ships to rescue refugees in peril of drowning on the basis that letting them drown would deter others making the journey, a view previously expressed by the fascist leader of the BNP. In spite of hundreds drowning the boats still come, often with children - people are that desperate.
The brutal reality of the treatment of refugees was brought home when pictures of the drowned body of 3 year old Aylan Al-Kurd circulated in the national press and social media, triggering a wave of demonstrations across Europe demanding leaders act to alleviate the suffering. Aylan was one of over 3,000 refugees who drowned this year. Refugees only attempt this hazardous journey because other routes are closed by racist immigration policies.
News reports of scores of people found suffocated in vans, and the sight of families stranded on beaches and in open countryside without food or shelter fuelled demands for leaders to act. In Oxford 2,000 people (see picture) turned up at 4 days notice to say "Refugees welcome here". The protest applauded calls to build social housing enough for the domestic population and refugees, to reject the racist scapegoating that had become common currency in mainstream political discourse, and also to reject attempts by David Cameron to use the Syrian refugee crisis to launch a war that would create more refugees. Calls were also made for donations by charities who have since been inundated with support.
Delegations from across the UK have made the journey to the the refugee camp in Calais to deliver solidarity directly to refugees there.
Under pressure from public support for refugees David Cameron announced plans to admit 20,000 cherry picked refugees over the next 5 years, but this does nothing to address the plight of the hundreds of thousands of refugees currently homeless and desperate in Europe.
Racists are trying to blame migrants and refugees for problems in the NHS and housing. Yet the shrinking NHS budget, the lack of 20,000 nurses, and the absence of any house building programme are not caused by refugees and migrants. These are government policies, and anti-refugee racism only diverts us from real solutions to these problems. That is why it is vital we say it loud and say it clear “Refugees are welcome here”.