UN Anti-Racism Day: 'Why I'm joining Sheffield marchers on London demonstration'

A Sheffield anti-racism campaigner has spoken about why she’s joining a coachload of city protesters to head to a big demonstration in London.

By Julia Armstrong
Thursday, 17th March 2022, 9:12 am

Ebru Garnett is co-chair of the campaign Sheffield Stand Up to Racism. City trade union organisations have sponsored a Stand Up to Racism coach which is heading to join the demonstration being held to mark UN Anti-Racism Day on Saturday, March 19. The Unison trade union has also booked its own coach.

Explaining why she is marching in London, Ebru said: “First of all, it’s the first big demonstration organised for over two years. I think it’s important to go on demonstrations while we are still allowed to, before the Government takes that bastion of democracy away from us.

“It’s important to go because it’s the international UN Anti-Racism Day. I am aware that racism is a global issue. As citizens we need to tackle the racism we see around us and show solidarity to the minorities who feel victimised, marginalised or threatened in any way. It is important to show we are willing to defend them.”

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Sheffield Stand Up to Racism volunteers on their most recent trip to Calais to help refugees who are living in appalling conditions as they try to reach Britain

Ebru has been struck by how differently Ukrainians fleeing war in their country are treated to other refugees.

“In the past week especially you can’t go anywhere without somebody talking about Ukrainian refugees,” she said.

“Even in Tesco earlier you could donate your Clubcard vouchers to the refugee crisis.

"It is lovely but not the first refugee crisis we have had. For the first time ordinary people have really pricked up their ears and responded. There are over 80 million refugees around the world. The UK doesn’t do its share at all.”

Sheffield Stand Up to Racism volunteers on their most recent trip to Calais to help refugees who are living in appalling conditions as they try to reach Britain

Ebru said that, rather than being given visas and Eurostar tickets like Ukrainians, other refugees heading to Britain from France are “abused, marginalised, criminalised and injured” by French border police being paid for by British taxpayers to stop people travelling. There is no legal route into the UK for them.

‘These poor humans have the most miserable experience in Calais’

She continued: “I have been to Calais and seen families with tiny, tiny children who sleep outside in the flimsiest of tents with no facilities whatsoever. They have no access to a toilet or running water.

"They would have barely enough food to eat if it were not for the charities who every day go and try to support these people who are living in the most appalling conditions. These poor humans have the most miserable experience in Calais.”

Sheffield Stand Up to Racism volunteers on their most recent trip to Calais to help refugees met people who are living in appalling conditions as they try to reach Britain

Ebru asked: “What is the difference? They are all people at the end of the day. Ukrainians have a white face and other people have a brown or black face.”

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She said she had met people from Sudan, Eritrea, Libya, Kurdish people from Iraq and people from Afghanistan who were also fleeing conflict in their countries.

“Remember when the British government said they were going to take Afghan refugees? They took two planeloads and left everybody else,” she said.

Former Lord Mayor of Sheffield Magid Magid joining an anti-racist protest outside Sheffield Town Hall in 2017

"Those people are left to try and get here by dinghy.”

Sheffield Stand Up to Racism was asked by Care for Calais, a British charity that helps refugees in France, to help refugees being put up in city hotels during the pandemic who arrived with no suitable clothes and flip flops rather than shoes. Ebru worked to organise donations to buy people the basics and delivered them.

Many people the volunteers started to get to know were moved on quickly and some were deported, she said.

How to join the Sheffield Stand Up to Racism marchers

“All these people had very, very personal stories to tell. A lot are quite harrowing. They’ve had terrible things happen to them. The most alarming thing is how ordinary their lives once were,” she said.

“They were engineers or might have been a plumber. All of a sudden their lives were just turned upside down and that life didn’t exist any more. We should all really appreciate the fragility of our existence.

An anti-racism protest in Sheffield in 2017

“If the pandemic hasn’t shown that, if we haven’t learnt that, we’ve missed a bit of a trick. People have said ‘I’m going to live my life differently’. As soon as Primark and Sainsbury’s fully opened again, that just went out of the window.”

For details of Sheffield transport to the UN Anti-Racism Day demonstration in London, go to http://BIT.LY/M19SHEFSUTR or visit the Stand Up to Racism Sheffield Facebook page (@SheffieldSUTR).