An asylum seeker who crossed the Channel in a small boat declared that “no human is illegal” as Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists rallied outside the Home Office’s central London headquarters.
XR climate activists carrying origami paper boats protested outside the building in Westminster to show “solidarity and compassion with refugees and climate migrants” on Sunday afternoon.
They marched from Parliament Square to the department on the third day of a mass protest which the climate group has called “The Big One”.
Some 50,000 people are expected to join the action between April 21-24 – and the protests are supported by more than 200 organisations including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.
Sunday’s protests earlier intersected with the London Marathon outside the Houses of Parliament, when it was feared there might be disruption but the race appeared to pass without incident.
XR said the Home Office demonstration opposed the Government “cracking down on people risking their lives at sea” through the Illegal Migration Bill and claimed that climate change will create “millions” more refugees.
The Bill is part of the Government’s plan to stop small boats of migrants from crossing the English Channel and aims to stop people claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive through unauthorised means.
XR had vowed to make “20,000 origami boats to be posted to MPs and Home Secretary Suella Braverman” and protesters chanted “refugees are welcome here” while activists held their pink paper boats aloft during the rally.
A 24-year-old Algerian asylum seeker who made a small boat Channel crossing “last December” gave a speech before the cheering crowd.
“My name is Moun,” he said. “I’m 24 years old and according to Suella Braverman I’m an invader in this country.
“I’m not a military strategist but if I look at a shore and I see a boat arriving with babies two weeks old and with women, pregnant, and with paralysed people on the boat, the first idea that comes to my mind would not be ‘these are invaders’.
“The first idea that comes to my mind would be, let’s give these people shelter.”
He said that he had been “tear-gassed” and “assaulted” by French police and said he made the 11-hour journey to the UK because he could speak English and “looking for happiness is a human right and no human is illegal”.
He said he “tried 10 times to reach Britain”, adding: “I thought that the journey here would take me an hour, it took me 11 hours and the waves were so high and the water starting getting into the boat.
“I started crying and remembered my mother. She didn’t know I was making the journey, I didn’t want her to know about it. I thought I was going to die.
“There was a person next to me, a stranger and I was holding his hand for two hours and I could feel him and he could feel me and in that moment I knew that all humans are basically one soul.”
The marathon route and protest intersected as runners passed the Houses of Parliament.
XR said they would not intentionally disrupt the race while direct action protest group Just Stop Oil refused to say.
XR supporter Michel, 63, who lives in Brussels, Belgium, travelled to central London for the protest and was helping police to steward the marathon in case a “handful of naughty people” tried to disrupt it.
Climate activists among the spectators applauded runners as they zipped passed, while some activists unfurled a “climate emergency” banner in front of the Winston Churchill statue.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “There is a clear distinction between the right to peaceful protest and those currently causing chaos for the wider public.
“We are giving the police additional powers, creating new offences through our Public Order Bill and bringing in court orders for repeat offenders, and we will work closely with the police to make sure they can implement these in full.
“While our safe and legal routes are some of the most generous anywhere, we cannot accommodate everyone who wants to come to the UK – people should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach.”
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