Vigil by the sea
On Tuesday 19th October we held our vigil by the sea – the landmark permeating life in Hastings and now a frontline in the conflict between two narratives: the story of welcoming those who are making perilous journeys across those deceptive waters to seek sanctuary with us, and the other one embedded in the Nationality and Borders Bill, which seeks to reject those people and their very humanity. We gathered to show our support for all those who brave those seas, and tragically sometimes succumb to them.
We thank everyone who came – about 50 people, with many more there in spirit; we were pleased to have good representation from Hastings Borough Council, including Cllr Maya Evans who spoke powerfully of the situation facing people from Afghanistan where she has worked over the past decade helping young people there, who are now facing great danger. Like all those with ties to the UK and making their torturous journeys to and across Europe trying to come here to claim asylum, they will be refused safe passage to the UK, and under the Bill, will be criminalised and detained if they continue their journey and land on our beaches in small dinghies.
We have also recently met with our MP, Sally-Ann Hart, and presented her with our petition for which we collected over 550 signatures on stalls across our small town in just a few days. We are urging her to support us in resisting these immensely harsh aspects of the Bill and to work in Parliament for a fairer, kinder and more humane asylum system.
Recently, one of our group, Rachel Lowden, happened to be on a nearby beach and witnessed a tiny dinghy crammed full of women, children, babies and men drifting into the beach. As Rachel reflected in her story of what happened: “I don’t think anybody –any of us here in the UK could understand what it must be like to put your family at that kind of risk. …I know that in my lifetime that’s not going to happen to me. I’m not going to be asked to put my 3-year-old in a dinghy to travel 13 miles across a shipping channel, because I’ve fled from war and conflict and goodness knows what…And that it’s safer to do that than stay where you are. It’s an unbearable decision to have to make.”
We join with those across the country in the collective call to challenge hostility and to proclaim clearly: #RefugeesWelcome. For more information on the Nationality and Borders Bill, updates on its passage through Parliament and other relevant information, please see the City of Sanctuary Borders Bill website.