Two small towns in Craven district, in North Yorkshire, have held demonstrations against the nationality and borders bill this week. Over 30 people turned out in Skipton, and over 20 in Settle in spite of the soggy weather.
Protest against the nationality and borders bill
Phil McCarthy, one of the coordinators said:
“We have had so much support locally with hundreds of members in the local groups. Many people turned out even though the weather was not so good, and it was very wet in Settle. Dozens of people signed our petition against the bill and many people wanted to talk to us to understand it better or to express their disgust.
“Craven has always been a generous open hearted place and has welcomed refugees since the government scheme started in 2015 and local citizens are very involved in supporting them. From the evidence we have seen from all the local groups, current government policy does not reflect how people in Skipton feel. We welcome refugees.”
The bill proposes a two-tier asylum system whereby those arriving without prior authorisation will be deemed to be ‘illegal immigrants’ and criminalised, while those with prior authorisation will be supported and given leave to remain. More information about the bill can be found here.
Parties come together in Skipton to support refugees
The Skipton event was supported by three of the major political parties. The prospective parliamentary candidates for the Skipton and Ripon constituency – Brian McDaid (Labour), Andy Brown (Greens) and Andrew Murday (Lib Dems) – joined together to protest against the bill and offer solidarity with refugees. Andy Brown, who is also a Craven district councillor and Yorkshire Bylines writer, said:
“It was good to see such support for refugees across the political spectrum today and to show that we can work together to seek a more humane response. Craven Council, which has a Conservative majority, has recently voted unanimously to welcome more refugees in Skipton and there is considerable support for this across all parties. I don’t think the nationality and borders bill represents the views of people or politicians in Craven and many people told us that at the demonstration today.”
The Craven Refugee Support Network, which co-ordinated the events, comprises refugee support groups in and around Settle, Skipton, Bentham and in Upper Wharfedale and Malhamdale. The network of small local groups has hundreds of members, with Upper Wharfedale alone just one member shy of a hundred. Jane Way, from the Upper Wharfedale group said:
“We have a lot of support for refugees in Upper Wharfedale and local people are very much involved in welcoming refugees, providing household goods and clothing and fundraising. We understand how difficult it is for refugees to uproot themselves from their homes and family and make the perilous journey to the UK.
“All of those we have had contact with over the years have been keen to contribute to UK society and are valued citizens. To think that they may be criminalised for trying to protect their families is unthinkable and we are opposed to the nationality and borders bill. The UK is a generous and welcoming place and this bill does not represent who we are.”