Resisting hostility to stand with asylum seekers

Share Button

Posters supporting asylum seekers © JMU Journalism

Posters have appeared around the city centre to mark alliance with asylum seekers, migrants, and refugees in Liverpool.

Solidarity Knows No Borders Merseyside is an organisation aiming to put an end to The Hostile Environment, which is currently rendering refugees helpless by stopping them from working, accessing healthcare or allowing them to rent accommodation.

Nina Houghton, who is a member of the group, said: “People are fleeing war, persecution and famine, yet when they reach this country, instead of being offered sanctuary, too often they are subjected to unbearable hardships and brutality.

“Asylum seekers, including children, are demonized and seen as less than human, and this is aided by the racist immigration policies. Our network aims to raise our voices against this and to support all those individuals and groups in Merseyside who are resisting this.”

In the Liverpool City Region alone there are 2,321 asylum seekers, some who are surviving on benefits as little as £39.63 a week, with an extra £3 – 5 for any child under three years old.

Meg James, a group member who created the posters, said: “In Liverpool there is a history of oppression, and I think it’s important that mainly white working-class people come to understand that they have more in common with refugees and other ethnic minorities.

“The media is not reliable, sometimes they seek to breed hate and put false narratives across. Asylum seekers are not the real enemy, that’s why I wanted to make the posters, to offer an alternative to that mainstream media and allow people to see things in a different way.”

Many asylum seekers have lengthy ordeals while waiting for official refugee status, even being detained in ‘uninhabitable’ detention centres during the process.

Wilson Mukerjee and his family were detained for several days in Bedfordshire’s Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre in 2018 and only gained official refugee status last November, seven years after fleeing Pakistan.

Speaking exclusively to JMU Journalism, Mr Mukerjee said: “The detention centre was worse than a prison. At night time they turn off the heating under the pretext that the system has technical faults. All detainees have to drink water from the bathrooms, the hygiene conditions of the bathrooms in the rooms are dirty and filthy.

“Even when we went to the dining room, we were just given enough food to survive, they would throw leftovers in bins but won’t give you any to eat. Even the pots and pans of the pets in our homes were cleaner than the ones in the detention centre.”

In the past month plans for Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre to be expanded have been scrapped by the government due intense criticism from faith groups surrounding ‘health and mental wellbeing’.

Settled: Celine Hay and her partner

Asylum seeker Celine Hay came to Liverpool from India eighteen years ago to escape domestic abuse but has yet to receive official refugee status.

She said:“I came away because I was poisoned due to domestic violence. There is no option for me, I can’t go back. I even told The Home Office, I would rather kill myself in this country, where I am loved and I am with family, rather than go back and die on the streets where no one will know me.”

Ms Hay applied for refugee status after being with her partner, who is from Liverpool, for 10 years. After being refused she went to court and the higher court, both ending with the same result. Without refugee status, Celine can be detained or even deported at any point.

She said: “Being an asylum seeker is really hard. When you go to sign you feel like a criminal, you have to take your coat off, you have to empty your pockets, show what’s in your handbag. It’s not on. We’re not criminals. We come fleeing for our lives to seek asylum.”

Mr Mukerjee and Ms Hay are both a part of Solidarity Knows No Borders Merseyside, campaigning for others who are going through experiences like themselves. The group welcomes all people to get involved and contact them through @SolidarityKnowsNoBordersMerseyside on Facebook and Instagram.

About Marianna Owen, JMU Journalism