SIS co-hosted a Vigil for the 39 migrants who tragically died in the back of a refrigerated lorry in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
We wanted to show our concern and express our solidarity with our beneficiaries, many of whom are Migrants and some of whom have undertaken perilous journeys to reach the UK.
As it emerged that this avoidable tragedy involved people of Chinese heritage we reached out to our Chinese colleagues, friends, service users and community.
Before the Vigil we spoke briefly with the Chair of the Chinese Elders Group – someone we have known and worked with for 20 years. He wanted us to say simply that he was pleased to know the Vigil had been organised.
A vigil means to stay awake and to be watchful. We have to ask why this tragedy happened, not just how.
What we notice is the impact of the `hostile environment` and of `Fortress Europe`.
The lack of safe legal routes for people to apply for asylum means that every day people who are simply seeking safety undertake dangerous journeys.
In recent years, those fleeing poverty and war have been forced to turn to traffickers to join their families and communities in countries like Britain.
Here is the harrowing testimony of one such journey of a Syrian Refugee fleeing war in 2015 https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07rx0fb
We want to welcome refugees.
We want an end to the hostile environment.
We want to stand with the most vulnerable and against scapegoating.
The Vigil was organised by anti-racist and migrant rights campaigners and support organisations:
You can see the Argus Report of the Vigil here: https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/17992058.brighton-vigil-held-39-people-found-dead-lorry/
There will be a second Vigil on Thursday 31st October from 18.30 at the Chapel Royal, 164 North St, Brighton BN1 1EA
The Vigil received messages of support from a local Green Party MP and a Labour Party MP:
“The deaths of these individuals is an unspeakable tragedy, it is almost impossible to imagine the desperation of those making the journey across the world in search of safety here in Britain. Thank you to all those who have come to the vigil, it is your solidarity that shows our common humanity. We must learn the lessons of this tragedy in order to prevent it from happening again. We must always stand for a more compassionate and caring world that doesn’t force people into such desperate circumstances.” Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP (Labour Party – Brighton Kemptown)
“I’m sorry I can’t be with you tonight but thank you all for organising this vigil and for coming together to remember the 39 people who lost their lives earlier this week. While we don’t yet know the full details of this tragedy, we need to take a long hard look at the effects of our immigration system. When the Government shuts down safe and legal routes into this country and when they militarise borders, it creates the conditions in which exploitation can all too readily take place.
We know that people in desperate situations are forced to take terrible risks and the Government knows that too. We need to allow people access to the UK in a way that is safe and documented.
We need an immigration system of which we can be proud. One that is fair and humane… The hostile environment has to end. We must reject this Government’s vision of Britain as a mean minded, inward looking country and instead create a future in which nobody feels forced to take desperate and unimaginable risks. That is the best way to honour the 39 people who died this week, as well as the many others who have suffered in pursuit of the most basic of human rights – the right to safety and security”. In solidarity, Caroline Lucas MP (Green Party – Brighton Pavilion)
Arran Evans – Director