Bristol asylum-seeker protest making stand against Rwanda deportation plans

The speakers asked why Ukrainian refugees were more worthy of asylum than those fleeing Afghanistan

Dozens of campaigners gathered in Bristol to stand against the Government’s decision to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. The protest is in the midst of Bristol Harbour Festival as thousands of people hit the city centre this weekend.

Bristol Defend Asylum Seekers Campaign (BDASC) led a demonstration at The Centre by the Colston Plinth, St Augustine’s Parade from midday (July 16). The plinth that once held the statue of Edward Colston was draped in banners that read “refugees are welcome here” and “together with refugees”.

In a speech comparing Ukrainian refugees with those fleeing conflict in Afghanistan, Jo Benefield from BDASC said: “You can see the contrast between the way Ukrainian refugees are treated and the way people from Afghanistan are treated.

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“Why is that? Are they more worthy? They deserve to get refugee status and to be looked after but so do all refugees.”

A spokesperson for the Bristol City of Sanctuary was also present, agreeing with the sentiments of Ms Benefield. “What really strikes me is the two-tier system. The flights to Rwanda stand in stark contrast to the quite rightly warm welcome set up to people fleeing Ukraine. But there is such discrimination there. There should be equal treatment for everyone.”

Councillor Amirah Cole for Ashley led the crowd in a rendition of ‘We Shall Overcome’, a song associated with the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s although the lyrics and the melody predate this era. Many other representatives gave speeches including Councillor Marley Bennett for Eastville and Alison Orton from Bristol and Bath Freedom from Torture.

Under a controversial scheme imposed by the Home Office, anyone who arrived in Britain by routes deemed illegal since January 1 can be relocated to Rwanda. A deportation flight from the UK to Rwanda was due to take off on June 14 but was stopped after a dramatic 11th-hour ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

At the time, Priti Patel, the home secretary, said she was “disappointed” by the legal challenge. “We will not be deterred from doing the right thing and delivering our plans to control our nation’s borders,” she added. “Our legal team is reviewing every decision made on this flight and preparation for the next flight begins now.”

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