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Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit - Refugees Welcome 

24 May 2023 - 17:08 by helen.walker

On Tuesday 7 March, the Home Secretary introduced the new Illegal Migration Bill, which has been nicknamed the ’Refugee Ban Bill’, and is the Government’s latest action on the right to claim asylum. As it was going to House of Lords on Wednesday 10 May for its second reading, Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU) organised a gathering in central Manchester to coincide with this under the title ‘Refugees Welcome’ to show solidarity with people seeking safety and demonstrate their opposition to what they see as the Government’s latest attack on their rights.  

Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU) are a not-for-profit provider of legal and immigration advice, representation and support services for people across the North West, and are based in Manchester. Their aim is to ensure access to justice for survivors of torture, trafficking, human rights abuse and conflict, as well as divided families and others who are in need and affected by immigration controls. 

Some of the speakers at the event were from organisations such as Safety4Sisters and RAPAR, as well as sanctuary seekers themselves. Women Asylum Seekers Together, a grassroots network of women seeking asylum who fight for the rights of women facing injustice, had their choir treat the crowd - who showed up despite the Manchester rain - with a beautiful song. Some of other organisations in attendance included Manchester City of Sanctuary, Boaz Trust, Greater Manchester Tenants Union and Greater Manchester Law Centre. 

Joanna Midgley, Councillor for Chorlton Park and Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, spoke to the crowd about how she felt about the Bill, and what Manchester thinks: “To those seeking sanctuary, we welcome you”. 

Other local Councillors spoke at the event, Amna Abdullatif for Ardwick (pictured below) and Sharmina August for Eccles, and they both reiterated the role that Councillors can play alongside VCSE groups in supporting and speaking out for those seeking asylum, as well as giving sanctuary seekers the platform to tell their own stories.  

Rivka, Policy Officer at GMIAU said, “The Government are trying to rush this through Parliament to avoid it being debated in too much detail because it’s a really pernicious, draconian, punishing bill which will essentially extinguish the right to claim asylum and the right to any asylum or modern slavery protection for anyone who arrives to claim asylum in the UK through so-called ‘irregular’ routes. The reality is there are no safe routes to claim asylum so people arrive from routes like crossing the Channel out of absolute necessity because they’re fleeing war, persecution, and because they’re desperate to seek safety. We believe that we should welcome those people and help them to begin to build lives here. Instead, the government are proposing to essentially deny them any access to any services, any rights, indefinitely and to detain and remove them.

Manchester says no - central Government in Westminster may be trying to bring in some horrific legislation that will affects peoples’ lives here, but as a city region, Greater Manchester is a welcoming place. We’ve shown time and time again that we are compassionate and welcoming towards those who are seeking safety in our city and I think it’s shown today by how many people turned out. We’ve had Councillors from Manchester and Salford, including the Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, to show their opposition to the bill today. They’re making it really clear that we do things differently here and that’s what we’re going to continue to ask for, because if the Bill does pass, and it likely will, we’re going to need to keep resisting it and that’s going to have to happen right here where we are.” 

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