Last Tuesday at least 27 men, women and children who were seeking safety in the UK, perished in the cold, unforgiving seas of the Channel.
This is dreadful news. The tragedy is that these terrible deaths were preventable. Charities who have been supporting asylum seekers and refugees on both sides of the Channel predicted such a situation.
Until the UK provides a safe route for refugees to claim asylum and/or be reunited with their family in the UK desperate refugees will be forced to risk their lives crossing the Channel and disasters will occur.
SIS is above everything a humanitarian charity. We strongly believe that seeking asylum is a human right.
We worked quickly with others to organise a Vigil in Jubilee Square to pay our respects to the dead, their families and their communities – to express our grief and our anger.
Two years ago we acted similarly when 39 Vietnamese Refugees suffocated in the back of a refrigerated lorry.
We wanted to show our concern and express our solidarity with our beneficiaries, some of whom have undertaken perilous journeys to reach the UK.
The Vigil began by hearing from Yaser a Kurdish man who has worked with us as an interpreter. He spoke powerfully. Many of those who died were Kurdish people.
There was a minute silence to show respect and to remember those people who have lost lives.
Many speakers spoke passionately. There was a message of support from Caroline Lucas MP.
Over 100 people attended in the bitter cold.
This reminded us all of the conditions in which people exist and undertake their desperate journeys – crossing mountains, camping in makeshift tents and attempting to cross the Channel.
People laid flowers and comforted each other.
Vikki represented SIS. She explained that SIS has a long history of welcoming refugees and that we will continue to work with compassion and care towards all refugees and asylum seekers.
SIS also shares the position of many other organisations and individuals who oppose the Nationality and Borders Bill – the so-called Anti-Refugee Bill – that is likely to make such tragedies more frequent.
A similar message was delivered by Shahreen to a second Vigil at the Hove Peace Statue on Thursday evening.
Up to 250 people also attended a candlelight Vigil on Thursday evening in Hastings next to the beach where rescued refugees are brought by the local lifeboat: https://www.facebook.com/HastingsSUTR
If you are a refugee or person seeking asylum affected by this issue, you can contact the Refugee Council Infoline for support – 0808 196 7272
The Vigil was organised by SIS with anti-racist and migrant rights campaigners and support organisations:
Thank you to Aflo The Poet for her moving poetry, to Maozya from STAR (Sussex Student Action for Refugees) for chairing, Aidan (SIS Deputy Chair) for the Vigil risk assessment and to all those involved.
Arran Evans – Director- Sussex Interpreting Services