On Friday 29th July, members of the Manchester-based Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) and supporters from the community marched from Liverpool’s St. George’s Hall to the UK Borders Agency headquarters.
The march was well-attended, consisting mainly of women and children in the process of seeking Asylum, as well as local activists, friends and supporters. With so many young children on the march, it was especially worrying when six members of the English Defence League appeared. We already knew that the North West Infidels contingent of the EDL were particularly vile, but turning out to harass mothers and children for seeking to escape from rape, torture and violence was a new low even for them. That said, nobody was intimidated and few bothered to engage with them. They, themselves, just held out their flags and seemed a little uncertain as to why they were there or what they wanted to say, in contrast to the women of WAST whose placards, chants, songs and pamphlets presented a strong, clear message: seeking asylum is not a crime.
After the march, women spoke of the violence and oppression they had sought to escape, and of the further violence and oppression they were facing as a direct result of an asylum system that treats them as criminals and leaves them without enough money to live on, or the right to legally earn it. After the speakers, the WAST choir sang songs about freedom, exile and better times to come.
WAST’s list of demands for the UKBA can be found on the Facebook event for the march, and covered the need for legal aid, support for women who have suffered violence, an end to detention and destitution and a recognition of the human rights of asylum seekers’ children.
You can find out more about WAST and donate to them on their web site, www.wast.org.uk.