In March 2007 the Home Office published "Enforcing the Rules": stating that its purpose was to ensure that for people seeking asylum, life "becomes ever more uncomfortable and constrained until they leave or are removed." From October this year they have stepped their efforts to make life hard for asylum seekers (and perhaps win some votes from the most ignorant and racist parts of the electorate). In particular: cutting asylum benefits to £5 a day for asylum seekers over 25; attempting (disastrously) to deport people to Baghdad, claiming that it is "safe" (one of the people on the demo had lost a friend to car bomb in Baghdad weeks before); making the process of claiming asylum even more of maze that it already is and announcing their intention to forcibly deport people to Zimbabwe by claiming there were "positive changes" there.
Sheffield's Zimbabwean community felt this attack on them should be resisted. They fled Zimbabwe to find safety here and there is no less danger in Zimbabwe now than before the latest "Unity" Government. Initiated by them and backed by the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG) we decided to speak out against this latest stepping up of the Government's war against asylum seekers. So 100-120 people demonstrated outside the Town Hall: asylum seekers from Zimbabwe, Uganda, Iraq, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Chechnia, Uzbekistan and Sudan joined SYMAAG, Sheffield and Barnsley Trades Councils, ASSIST, No Borders, CDAS, Sheffield Green Party, the Bishop of Sheffield and council leader Paul Scriven to show our opposition. As well as speeches there was dancing from members of the Zimbabwean group. The demonstration received coverage from Radio Sheffield, Sheffield Live and The Star and passers-by took 200 leaflets explaining why we were protesting. We left, cold but proud that we stood up for asylum rights in our city.
Next SYMAAG meeting: Monday 7th December 7pm at Scotia Works, Leadmill Road, Sheffield S1 4SE