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Thousands demand Government action on migrant crisis

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of London chanting "refugees are welcome here" in a bid to urge the Government to take more action on the migrant crisis.

Organised by Solidarity with Refugees, groups and charities including Amnesty International, Oxfam, Save the Children, the Refugee Council and Stop the War Coalition joined forces for the Refugees Welcome demonstration.

The capital's Park Lane came alive with a sea of colourful placards carrying slogans such as "no-one is illegal", "stop the drowning", "choose love" and "be human", as an estimated 10,000 people joined the march.

Next week, world leaders will meet at the UN Summit for refugees and migrants in New York which Theresa May is set to attend.

Solidarity with Refugees director Ros Ereira said she hopes the Prime Minister "sets the tone" for what kind of country the UK can be at the summit.

She added: "Hopefully she will want to portray us as an open, tolerant, welcoming society that wants to play an important role on the global stage and lead an appropriate global humanitarian response."

According to the UN's refugee agency, more than 3,200 people have died or gone missing attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year.

Figures show almost 300,000 people have attempted the journey and thousands remain stranded in Greece and Italy in poor living conditions.

Last year's Refugees Welcome event, which came after a picture was published of refugee toddler Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach, drew 100,000 demonstrators calling for action.

Continuing that message, Ms Ereira told the throng of people who had marched through the streets to Parliament Square for a rally: "We need to send the message that we can do more to provide safe passage to people fleeing war and persecution from around the world.

"So that they don't die in the sea, or in the trucks, or in the roads or killing themselves for hopelessness."

Religious leaders, refugees, actors such as Vanessa Redgrave, Douglas Booth and Juliet Stevenson, as well as figures including MP Caroline Lucas, Labour's Lord Alf Dubs and Liberal Democrat campaigner Baroness Sheehan, also gave speeches to the crowd.

Campaigner Vanessa Redgrave said on stage: " The present Government and previous governments, both Labour, Coalition and Conservative, have been breaking international human rights law. We must hold them to account."

Labour's Lord Alf Dubs arrived in the UK under the Kindertransport programme for Jewish children as a six-year-old fleeing Nazi persecution. During his speech, he said he thinks the Government has been "pretty hopeless" at dealing with the issue.

"There is only one thing that is shifting this Government and that is the force of public opinion, and that means you," he said.

Actor Douglas Booth said he went to Lesbos to visit refugees and was "completely moved", saying he was lucky enough to be born into a safe country and that was the only difference between him and them.

Truly, Madly, Deeply star Juliet Stevenson told the crowd a 14-year-old refugee boy, entitled to be in the UK as his brother is here, recently died while trying to get onto a lorry - the third youngster to be killed this year.

She added: "How many more children have to die before we stand up to our responsibilities and get them over here safely and legally?"

Syrian refugee Kais Aldahoul, 24, said he joined the march to "support the situation" which is "getting worse by the day".

He added: "It is about more support, not necessarily bringing in more refugees, but to help the camps around Europe - the situations in them (are) pretty horrendous."


From Belfast Telegraph