By Jennifer Langer
As the Exiled Writers Ink contingent neared the Royal Courts of Justice in London, the sounds of chanting and drumming reached us and then, arriving at the rally outside the Courts, we each picked up a banner and we too protested in solidarity:
Say it loud, say it clear
Refugees are welcome here
No borders, no nations
What was the purpose of the rally? It was to stop the government scheme to deport refugees to Rwanda and as 600 of us demonstrated outside the Courts, the case against the scheme was being heard inside the court. It was part of a day of action called by Stand Up to Racism, the TUC union federation and the Care4Calais charity. Care4Calais and the PCS union had brought a case against the Home Office, challenging its Rwanda deportation policy. That day in September, thousands of people took to the streets in more than 20 demonstrations all over Britain.
Exiled Writers Ink was proud to have been invited to speak and to read some poems at the London rally. It was crucial for those potentially affected by the government ruling to speak out and EWI has long worked with established and developing writers from repressive regimes and war-torn situations. Moreover, we challenge human rights abuses through literary activism. We clambered up to the stage and the poets Afsaneh Gitiforouz and Ziba Karbassi performed their moving poems while the protestors listened enraptured. Ziba read her poem in Farsi while the poet, Stephen Watts read it in English translation. I represented EWI by reading out the statement that had been prepared collaboratively and which can be read in full in the previous blog. It began:
‘Members of Exiled Writers Ink, we are refugee and migrant writers who fled from our countries of origin because of oppression, persecution, war, imprisonment, torture and deprivation of freedom of speech. We are angry about the Government’s cruel plan to dump asylum seekers in Rwanda.’
Sadly the court challenge failed. The struggle will continue.