Swansea Says ‘Refugees Are Welcome Here’

cropped-sass-new-logo1.jpg

AT least 800 people turned out on Saturday in Castle Square, Swansea, to declare REFUGEES ARE WELCOME HERE.

There were similar rallies all across the UK, across Europe and around the world.

In Swansea, young and old, many with home-made banners, heard speeches calling on the UK government to do much, much more to take in refugees from Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, and all countries blighted by war and persecution. Speakers also called on the government to treat asylum-seekers in the UK with much, much more compassion.

Speakers from SBASSG called for better support, access to legal advice, and an end to the vicious policy of destitution. This policy leaves many people with nowhere to live and no income whatever, potentially for years on end. They often successfully claim refugee status in the end, but meanwhile are denied basic protection, basic dignity. The government even plans to extend this appalling policy from adults to children too.

This policy of making asylum-seekers suffer as much as possible, in order to put others off the idea of claiming asylum, is inhumane and does not even work. It makes many British people ashamed to be British.

Poet and activist Max Kpakio, who came to Swansea fleeing civil war in Liberia in 2002, spoke of the warm welcome he has received from people here, in his new home. He read a poem titled “I Feel Like Nobody Here”, about the way media and politicians demonise asylum-seekers like him. He now runs a charity promoting HIV awareness in Wales and Liberia.

The crowd responded generously to an appeal for money for charities supporting destitute asylum seekers: SBASSG, the Share Tawe project, EYST, and Unity in Diversity

Many people came forward with offers of help: to teach English, to befriend new arrivals, to take destitute people into their homes, to help out at drop-ins, to help raise funds, and much much more.

Unity in Diversity has a directory of services for asylum seekers. All these organisations need volunteers to help.

The appeal for donations raised just under £1000 on the spot – thank you, warm and generous people of Swansea!!

If you would like to help asylum seekers in the Swansea area, please register your interest with Swansea Bay Asylum Seekers Support Group here – we look to forward to hearing from you!

Revisiting ‘Between a Mountain and a Sea: Refugees Writing in Wales’

Between a Mountain and a Sea: Refugees Writing in Wales was published back in 2003 to raise awareness about the plight of refugees in Wales.

Its launch was covered by a BBC news article Asylum seekers and refugees in print, with the following extract:

I Feel Like Nobody Here by Maxson Sahr Kpakio

Feel like nobody here, ashamed, like everybody
Hates me,
But they don’t know me, they really
Don’t know who I am either,
Only they know what they read in the
Newspapers about me
And that is not me.
I feel like nobody here,
Despite the torture and persecution I managed
To escape from home, in search
Of a land of peace and respect for
Human rights, as soon as I got in,
I was put into detention centre,
And the newspapers did the rest.

If you are interested in reading more, you can find the book at Amazon here: Between a Mountain and a Sea: Refugees Writing in Wales.