On Friday evening (17 March) more than 100 people rallied outside the Grove House Hotel in Wallasey to send an unambiguous message that the refugees and asylum seekers being accommodated there are welcome in Wallasey.
Participants included local residents, church groups, and charities, with further support from unions including FBU, UCU, Unison Merseytravel/LCRCA, Unison (Wirral), CWU, and Unite (Bebington No.1), NEU, Wirral TUC, and NW TUC.
Around 20 anti-refugee protesters turned up from outside the Wallasey area. These protestors were heard shouting “Sink the boats!”, aimed at the refugee residents of the hotel.
The rally supporting the refugees received huge support from residents and passers-by, with many honking their horns in support, winding down their car windows to say “Well done!” and even bringing along chips to share.
Residents were emphatic that the refugees had been no trouble at all in the area.
Lucy Barker, a local resident said, “As a resident of Grove Road, I have absolutely no issues with the refugees at the Grove House Hotel. They keep themselves to themselves. I hope these young men get all the support and help they need to integrate fully into our community.”
Paul Martin, Labour councillor for New Brighton, said, “I felt a mixture of emotions last night [referring to Friday evening] Obviously, it’s heart-breaking seeing far-right activity going on in your own backyard.
“An area where I’m bringing my kids up in and have lived in for much of my life. That said, I felt an enormous sense of pride that so many people turned up to welcome and show solidarity with our refugee friends.
“Our message is absolutely clear – refugees are welcome here. right-wing intimidation is not.”
Prayers have been offered this week for refugees and migrants at Holy Apostles and Martyrs church in Wallasey.
Members of the parish Our Common Home group joined the demonstrations outside the Grove House Hotel and said, “We want to look beyond statistics and politics to the person- each with a name, a face and a story. We want to understand what drives people from their homes and recognise that seeking asylum is not illegal. People have a right to seek a fulfilled life outside their homeland, especially if they are unable to live with dignity there.”
Katherine Vasey, of Heart 4 Refugees, a Wirral refugee charity, said, “Despite the anti-migrant rhetoric from the government, it has been incredibly reassuring to see the outpouring of support from local groups and the local community.
“The truth is that these people are human beings with skills, feelings and hope for peace and a settled future. They have taught us so much and we are privileged to work with them. We will continue to be their voice and counter the negative rhetoric.”
National churches (Methodist, Baptist and United Reform) made a statement on the plight of refugees and asylum seekers and the government’s Migration Bill which can be read in full here: https://jpit.uk/response-to-illegal-migration-bill
Another rally to support the refugees will happen at the Grove House Hotel at 6pm on next Friday 24 March.