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

Contributor

Safi Bugel

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Ministers expected to toughen illegal migration bill to placate Tory rebels
Amendments could remove safeguards as Home Office minister says government is ‘in listening mode’

Peter Walker Political correspondent

27, Mar, 2023 @10:16 AM

Article image
MPs reject amendments to illegal migration bill – as it happened
Votes come as Labour says people will continue to risk lives to cross Channel under new bill

Nadeem Badshah (now) and Andrew Sparrow (earlier)

27, Mar, 2023 @10:14 PM

Article image
Children’s commissioner for England expresses ‘deep concern’ over illegal migration bill
Rachel de Souza asks Suella Braverman for clarity on how unaccompanied children will be treated under proposals

Aletha Adu Political correspondent

14, Mar, 2023 @4:55 PM

Article image
MPs vote to support the Illegal Migration Bill by 289 to 230 – as it happened
Theresa May had warned bill will cause more people to be consigned to modern slavery while Geoffrey Cox also raised concerns

Nadeem Badshah (now) and Andrew Sparrow (earlier)

26, Apr, 2023 @7:34 PM

Article image
UK’s illegal migration bill will force traffickers underground, says May
Former prime minister said Sunak’s immigration proposals could deny support to modern slavery victims

Tom Ambrose

28, Mar, 2023 @6:59 PM

Article image
Archbishop of Canterbury to criticise small boats bill in House of Lords
Justin Welby to join peers condemning measures that seek to criminalise people seeking refuge in UK

Rajeev Syal Home affairs editor

09, May, 2023 @11:00 PM

Article image
‘A revenge plan’: refugees and Dover residents react to illegal migration bill
Home secretary’s latest plan to curb small boats crossings across the Channel has been met with scepticism

Diane Taylor

07, Mar, 2023 @6:01 PM

Article image
UN refugee agency ‘profoundly concerned’ by UK’s illegal migration bill saying it amounts to an asylum ban – as it happened
UNHCR says bill extinguishes the right to seek refugee protection in the UK for those who arrive irregularly

Tom Bryant, Tom Ambrose and Andrew Sparrow

07, Mar, 2023 @8:10 PM

Article image
Suella Braverman revives Tory pledge to cut net migration to ‘tens of thousands’
Home secretary says her ‘ultimate aspiration’ is to reduce migration figure from current level of 239,000

Rajeev Syal Home affairs editor

04, Oct, 2022 @5:13 PM

Article image
Alf Dubs: Braverman calling refugees ‘invaders’ was low point of my career
Labour peer who fled to UK to escape Nazis says home secretary’s words ‘deeply and personally upsetting’

Peter Walker Political correspondent

03, Feb, 2023 @6:00 AM