Thousands of people marched across the UK today in support of refugees, with hundreds joining a march in the Welsh capital of Cardiff.
The march was in support of the thousands of refugees attempting to enter Europe, and also the millions of refugees across the Middle East. The Cardiff protest was organised by various groups, including Cardiff People’s Assembly and the Cardiff Stop the War Coalition.
#RefugeesWelcome – Cardiff
Hundreds of people gathered at a statue of ex-Welsh Labour member Aneurin Bevan, listening to various speakers before setting off on the march.
A message of solidarity and empathy was common amongst those attending the march. Mark Lawson-Jones, a Church of Wales rector in Cyncoed, Cardiff, said “I’m here today to show support for the refugees fleeing violence and war. It’s an awful humanitarian crisis.” A great deal of criticism was also aimed at the current government. Lawson-Jones also added:
“It took pictures of dead children on beaches for the Government to wake up and do something, and only then because of public support.”
The march was heavily supported by the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers party, both of which had set up stalls. Many of the marchers held placards from the political parties featuring messages such as “Refugees Welcome Here.”
— Ben Blyth (@PhotoJ_BenBlyth) September 12, 2015
The Government has lately been trying to gauge public support for increased military action in Syria, a country which has seen millions of its citizens become refugees. Support for such action at today’s march was low. Mari Ann Owens, member of the national executive committee of the public and commercial services trade union, said “I’m against the idea of military intervention. Dropping bombs is not going to help the situation, there’s no such thing as a humanitarian bomb.”
However some were more open to discussing military intervention. Caleb, a Phd student at Cardiff University, said “I think the military thing is more complex…because of Western attitudes and military intervention in countries like Libya and Syria. But I hope in the long term people would start to have a conversation across Britain about military intervention”
After several speeches the march began down Queen Street, the main shopping street in Cardiff. Members of the public generally agreed with the sentiment of the march, some stopping to applaud the chants of “No borders, no nations, stop deportations.” Only a few expressed disagreement.
As the march reached the end of Queen Street there were several minutes of confusion. A large group of people wanted to march to the Borders Agency offices, but others turned around to march back down Queen Street. One of the organisations that supported the march, the Welsh Refugee Council, objected to ending the march at the Borders Agency. They said refugees on their board did not feel comfortable going there.
The march today marks a recent highpoint in public support for refugees. However a new YouGov poll, published on the 6th of September, commissioned by The Sun newspaper found that 51% of the people it asked said the government should not admit more Syrian refugees. 36% of the poll said that Britain should accept more. Many feel that the high level of public support will fall. Phd student Caleb said, “I hope this is going to build into something, and people won’t get too disappointed and give up.”
Who funds ISIS?
Some of the marchers questioned the West’s role in creating this crisis in the first place. One marcher named Reiner held a sign saying “Who funds ISIS?”. He said “It comes down to American destabilisation policy in the Middle East, which made literally millions of people leave their home country.” Previous military intervention by Western countries in the Middle East has made many uneasy about calls for further action. Reiner also said, “People are suffering terribly at the hands of terror, mainly generated at the end of policy which has been waged by Western countries.” David Cameron is expected to call a Commons vote on airstrikes in Syria this October. This comes two years after a similar motion was defeated by parliament.