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Video: coffin carried through town to mark ‘death of compassion’

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A ‘funeral procession’, led by a drummer, made its way through Stroud on Saturday morning in protest at the passing of the Safety of Rwanda Bill last Monday, which enables the government to deport asylum seekers to the African nation. Protestors carried placards bearing the words ‘No to Rwanda deportations’ and ‘Refugees and asylum seekers welcome here’.

Organised by Stroud District Together with Refugees, Stroud Against Racism and Community Solidarity, the protest centred around a coffin which marked ‘the death of compassion’. Some protestors wore dark clothes and funerial attire and carried the coffin, loaned by Family Tree Funeral Company in Stroud, to the top of the High Street where brief speeches were heard.

Sue Oppenheimer from Stroud District Together with refugees told Stroud Times: “Unfortunately the government passed the Safety of Rwanda Bill on Monday, and we feel very strongly this is the end of compassion to refugees and asylum seekers.

DSC2542 | Video: coffin carried through town to mark 'death of compassion'

“We’re the only country that’s not complying with the Refugee Convention of 1951 [a United Nations treaty] and it means that anybody who comes here seeking asylum is at risk of being deported – even victims of torture; those fleeing war; children; people who’ve been trafficked – they have a risk of being sent to a country our Supreme Court has said is not safe.

“This policy is just a gimmick by the government to save face and show they are doing something. It’s not going to stop the boats. It’s not going to stop people coming here because they are fleeing desperate circumstances. It’s just going to create misery.”

The final speaker at the protest was a man who had fled his native Syria and had been granted asylum and now lives in Stroud: “The reason people are fleeing Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Ukraine – they are fleeing torture and arrest. Even if you put a gun against my head and told me ‘you are forced to go back to Syria’, I would gladly take your bullet. I would choose the chance of survival on a death boat, in a storm in the middle of the sea, I would choose that gladly over any chances I might have in the cells of torture of the Assad prison.”

Organisers plan further protests if the deportation flights leave the UK for Rwanda.

Video and pictures by Matt Bigwood

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