Whilst the unusual sight of a half-submerged lorry puzzled visitors to the harbourside today, a more familiar sight was waiting across the water in the form of a demonstration for refugee rights.
Part of a nation-wide week of action called by national coalition Together With Refugees, Bristol-based refugee rights groups organised the demo today (October 21) against Priti Patel’s Nationality and Borders Bill.
Jo Benefield, one of the demo organisers, said to TBA: ‘We’ve come together because we want to make the public aware of the Bill that is going through Parliament.’
‘We need to make people aware of what’s happening in their name so that they will oppose it.’
From midday, demonstrators engaged with passers-by to hand out flyers about the Bill, and to encourage people to read and sign the public statement, published by Bristol City of Sanctuary in opposition to the Bill, which was available via a QR code on posters.
The statement has already been signed by Mayor Marvin Rees, all four Bristol MPs, and Bristol’s Green, Labour and Lib Dem councillor groups.
The Bill would make illegal any attempt to arrive into the UK via “irregular means,” which includes sailing across the Channel. It would also open the possibility for offshore detention centres. A group of leading barristers have said that the Bill represents ‘the biggest legal assault on international refugee law ever seen in the UK’
In their statement, Bristol City of Sanctuary argue that, under the 1951 Geneva Convention, ‘people fleeing persecution may have to use irregular means in order to escape and to claim asylum in another country, and there is no legal way to travel to the UK for the specific purpose of seeking asylum.
‘Moreover, there is no requirement under international law that asylum must be sought in the first safe country that the person encounters.’
Demo organiser Jo said that the British public were being fed misinformation by politicians like Patel, who ‘keeps banging on about “illegal refugees” and “illegal routes”. There’s no such thing.’
‘We’re changing the view that’s being put over by Priti Patel, trying to set the record straight, counter all those distortions and to say this is what’s being done in your name, and you need to speak up about it.’
The demo concluded by 1pm.