By: Barbara Kentish
The London Catholic Worker community and the Refuge from Rape and Destitution Campaign held a moving vigil outside the Home Office at lunchtime on June 19th to protest against the inhumane treatment of migrants, whether through border closures, asylum laws, detention and deportation policies, or carrier sanctions.
Supported by Westminster Justice and Peace, the All African Women’s Group, the Black Women’s Rape Action Project, and others, the occasion sought, through litanies, witnesses and music, to name and celebrate the spirit of migrants seeking a better life. The group first heard a list of those who had died on the edges of Europe, and then an awe-inspiring collection of names of those who have died in the UK while seeking asylum.
This remarkable list was extracted from the full list appearing in The Guardian of June 20th, and documented by a Dutch group called UNITED, and consisting of 34,361 people whose deaths can be attributed to ‘the fatal policies of Fortress Europe’. Turkish artist Banu Cennetoglu has adopted a policy of displaying ‘The List’ in public places wherever she can.
Westminster Justice and Peace highlighted the creativity of Lampedusa carpenter Francesco Tuccio, who makes crosses from boat fragments to give as signs of hope to migrants arriving from North Africa, and the inventiveness of those seeking legal access for unaccompanied migrants through campaigns such as Safe Passage. Women who have been separated from their children, been raped and in detention also gave witness and the need to make connections with different struggles.
Fr Joe Ryan, Chair of Justice and Peace, expressed the strong wish of Justice and Peace to be in solidarity with such groups in this vital witness to the inhumanity and cruelty of our ‘hostile environment’ policy towards migrants.
‘The List’, and the work of artist Banu Cennetoglu can be seen at the Chisenhale Gallery in East London from 29th June to 26th August.