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Vigil expresses opposition to Rwanda deportation plans

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A protest, organised by the recently formed group Stroud District Together with Refugees, took place outside the Subscription Rooms on Monday evening.

Around 70 people gathered on the Sub Rooms forecourt, with plaques and banners, and staged a 30-minute silent vigil opposing Government plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. A similar protest was held in June.

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Cllr Catherine Braun and Martin Whiteside.

Leader of Stroud District Council, Cllr Catherine Braun (Green, Wotton-under-Edge) later addressed the protestors, saying: “I think the policy is horrendous and there are no legal and safe ways for people to claim asylum in the UK and if legal and safe routes existed, desperate people who are fleeing violence, conflict and persecution would take them and they would not risk their lives embarking on dangerous journeys like crossing the channel, so the most important thing is that the government sets up safe and legal ways for people who are in need of refuge to come to the United Kingdom.”

Caroline Beatty, one of the organisers, said: “We are holding this vigil today because it’s the first day of the High Court hearing to decide the legality of the government policy to transport people to Rwanda. It’s going to take five days as far as we know and then there’ll be a second hearing in October. We’re horrified that they appear to be going ahead without even knowing if it’s legal or not.

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“There will be people all over the country who are showing their deep concern about this. I think it needs to be exposed for what it is, and I was looking at the definitions of smuggling and trafficking – people smuggling is the action or practise of illegally transporting people from one country to another and that is what the government policy may well turn out to be, a form of people smuggling – nationally and internationally sanctioned.

“I think the government is playing a very strange game and it’s horrible, but they’re kind of legitimising the very behaviour that they claim to be trying to stop.”

Cllr Braun added: “It’s just so great to see the number of people who’ve turned out on a Monday evening to be part of a National Day of Action here in Stroud. This is a new group, Stroud District Together with Refugees, which has been set up just in response to this new policy around deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda.

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“People feel very strongly about it. I think the Conservative Party have really timed this wrong. They haven’t captured the mood of the country. People want to welcome refugees to our country and to provide them with safe and legal routes to apply – we see how people have opened their homes to Ukrainian refugees during the war.

“I think most people in this country would like to see ways for people to safely claim refuge in the United Kingdom.”

Leaflets were handed out encouraging people to write to their MP expressing their feelings about the deportation policy. The group is holding a campaign meeting this evening, September 6th, at Star Anise Café in Stroud and 7.30pm.

Pictures and video by Matt Bigwood

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