Hundreds gather in Parliament Square to protest over illegal migration bill

Crowd demonstrate in Westminster as MPs debate government’s controversial immigration reforms

Hundreds of people have gathered in Parliament Square to protest against the government’s controversial new asylum and migration law as MPs debated the measures in the Commons.

The crowd, which first congregated around the Winston Churchill statue, chanted “What do we want? Safe passage. When do we want it? Now”, and “Who built the NHS? Migrants built the NHS.” Many held placards, which read “migrants and refugees welcome here: blame austerity, not migrants”.

The protest on Monday evening was organised after the government announced its illegal migration bill which would stop people entering the UK on small boats from claiming asylum as well as plans to ban them from returning once removed. Asylum seekers currently have the right to remain in the country to have their cases heard.

The bill passed to its second reading on Monday night following a vote by MPs of 312 in support to 250 against.

Kolbassia Haoussou MBE, co-founder of Survivors Speak Out which represents victims of torture, was among those to address the square earlier. “This bill will not stop people … people will find even more dangerous routes to cross. When people are fleeing, there’s nothing in this world that can stop them,” he said before urging people to contact their MPs. “We have people, we have the power.”

SNP MP Stephen Flynn said: “The Tories talk of invasions, of swarms … They’re lying, it’s as simple as that. They’re trying to beat down on people who they should be offering a helping hand to. Shame on them.”

Labour MP, Nadia Whittome, told the crowd: “We’ve got to tell those Tory MPs sitting in the chamber of the House of Commons right now to stop the dehumanising, denigrating, disgusting rhetoric that they use to talk about refugees.

“People arriving on our shores, they’re not an invasion, they’re not queue jumpers, they’re not criminals, they’re not illegal. They’re people just like you and me.”

Denise Tolan, a 59-year-old retired teacher travelled from Wokingham, Berkshire, to attend the event and described the planned law as “vile, hateful and divisive”.

She continued: “I think it’s just pandering to xenophobia. It doesn’t represent us, it’s shameful. I’m lost for words.”

Nick, who works for a human rights charity, said: “I’m here to show people that what this government is doing is just disgusting. It’s incredibly upsetting to see how we’re turning as a country. And it’s scary, I’m genuinely scared.

“The government say people are illegal but no people can be illegal. But these proposals go completely against international human rights standards.”

More than 45,500 people crossed the Channel on small boats to the UK in 2022, compared with 28,000 the year before.

Meanwhile, more than 160,000 people in the UK are waiting for decisions on their applications for asylum


Safi Bugel

The GuardianTramp

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