Hundreds of people gathered yesterday at Brighton’s clock tower and across the UK to show solidarity with migrants from around the world who are living, working and studying in Britain. The event was organised by Pip from Left Unity, #1daywithoutus.
Monday 20 February was an important day: United Nations World day of Justice and the day Parliament debated US President Trump’s state visit to Britain with Defend Migrants Stop Trump protestors outside.
Jane Allen said she was supporting valued friends, neighbours and workers: “People from all nations get on living together for a common cause. My dentist is Greek, my physio is German. I am not from Brighton, I left Norfolk when I was one year old. Does that mean I should go back to Norfolk?
“I voted against Brexit because I was worried about people who might want to come to the UK. It never occurred to me, I never had any doubt that people who have been here for 20 years could be under threat of having to leave.
“I don’t want them to have to leave. I am here today to show how much I value them.”
Jane Matthews said: “The more people that stand up, the better, show solidarity, if only everyone came by for 20 minutes, we’re all a bit complacent, it is very easy to ‘sofa shout.’
“I don’t know when multiculturalism became such a dirty word. Cultural diversity should be something we want to bring richness into life, it’s completely bonkers that people don’t want it.
“I challenge you to find me an indigenous Brit. Scaremongering and xenophobia is just all wrong.”
Marta Mouzo Insua spoke at the rally on behalf of the Spanish collective Marea Granate. She said Spanish people have very precarious living and working conditions and because of that many young people are forced to emigrate:
“I am one of them. We come here looking for a job, we do not come here hoping to become rich, stealing from you or taking advantage of your people and country. We just want to live with dignity.
“In exchange, we offer a lot of things to this country:
- “Our education and work experience. A lot of us have high academic education and or a lot of work experience from our jobs. We are professionals of every sector.
- “Our hands and bodies to work. Most of us are young people, between 20 to 45 years old.
- “And our culture. Our culture to share with you and learn about your culture.
“We are the nurses and doctors that look after you, we are the engineers that design your computers or buildings, we are the waiters and waitresses who serve your drinks and we are the kitchen porters that clean your plates.”
Dorothée Fritze-James who came to the rally with her daughter explained the impact of Brexit on her family and dislikes the dehumanising of EU citizens: “I have been here since 1979. Now I have no right to be here, I am desperate, depressed, the kids, including my grandchildren, are deeply affected. I can’t sleep.”
She said she is lucky that she can afford an immigration lawyer (many can’t) to help her apply for UK citizenship but resents the UK using EU citizens as a bargaining chip and ignoring their pleas for clarity and security. She has had a permit for 33 years giving her indefinite leave to remain in the UK. It may not be enough.
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Ms Fritze-James said: “My daughter, who was 10 months old when my ex-husband and I moved to the UK, must apply for Permanent Residency. This is her home, here. She has children and is married to a UK citizen. One of her children is no longer sleeping because of the anxiety, fearing that she’ll lose her mother. My daughter was educated in the UK and has never lived anywhere else.”
Angie Parker works as a special needs teacher is a German citizen carrying an EU passport and a Jew but has been a UK taxpayer for 30 years. She said: “I am going back to Germany because I don’t want to be a pawn in Mrs May’s stupid game. At least Germany is a positive democracy. I work in education but it is not enough to stay here. I am sick and tired of being told to pack my bags.”
Councillors Phelim MacCafferty and Councillor Leo Littman attended the rally. Councillor MacCafferty urged people to directly promote the voice of the vulnerable and to become champions of compassion and concern.
He warned: “Ignoring prejudice of any sort has never made it disappear. We do not have the luxury of walking away from hatred anywhere in our city. We must be clear: we will oppose the growth of the far-right and will not allow the current climate of fear to go unchallenged. That’s because not just Brighton and Hove, but this country is better than this.”
Yel Karavan’s father is an artist and she has been travelling since the age of three. She works as a dancer and physical performer and said: “It is beautiful when cultures learn from each other and open our minds. We all have a heart, we are all human, we are an organism and only when the organism works together, there is life.”
This article has also been published by Brighton and Hove News.