Skip to content or view screen version

Asylum seekers are welcome here

Leeds No Borders | 28.06.2006 12:14 | Refugee Week 2006 | Migration

Last week Leeds No Borders marked Refugee Week by demonstrating against the UK's inhumane reporting and detention system, holding a wonderful evening of film and food and leafleting hundres in the city centre to dispel the myths about asylum seekers pedalled in the press.

Last Thursday we demonstrated outside Waterside reporting and short-term detention centre on Kirkstall Road (A65) in Leeds. Our aim was mainly to show asylum seekers that we welcome them to the city by showing messages of support, offering food and drink and running a very well stocked free shop.

The daily, weekly or monthly reporting experience is a terrifying one. After travelling up to 25 mile sasylum seekers are subject to frequent humiliation, intimidation and racism along with the fear of being detained, moved to a detention centre and deported. this has happened on numerous occasions and is a very real threat.

Just the day before the Chief Inspector of Prisons reported that Waterside, along with similar centres, was unfit for purpose. Asylum seekers with special needs (including those at risk of self harm) have been held in completely inappropriate conditions. The report states that Waterside is unfit for the holding of children. We say children should never be held anywhere under any conditions. The UK is the only European country to lock up children.

Sadly Waterside security and the police found our very peaceful demonstration theratening enough to heighten security for the day, frightening asylum seekers more than usual. However we combatted this ridiculousness by warmly welcoming everyone entering and leaving the centre and were happy to see lots of smiles on lots of faces and people leaving with toys, food, clothes and hopefully a more positive view of people in Leeds. People working in Waterside were less willing to take up our offer of cake, but hey we tried...

Then on Friday we had a wonderful and very well attended evening at the Common Place featuring amazing food and the world premiere of 'Tears and Fears', a fantastic film by a Zimbabwean asylum seeker highlighting why people seek asylum, the immense struggle they face here and issues of destitution and detention. At least 50 people came and it was fantastic to be with a group of people of many ages and nationalities in a safe, wlecoming space. Anyone who missed the film can see it on Friday (June 30th) at the Hyde Park Cinema (Brudenell Rd, Hyde Park, LS6) at 1.30pm, along with other short films by Thomas Danby College film students.

We rounded off the week with a mass leafleting on Briggate, distributing about 1500 leaflets giving the truth about asylum to largely receptive passers by. Only by educating people can we start to make everyone understand the UK's appalling maltreatment of asylum seekers and change the inhumane asylum system.

Leeds No Borders need all the help we can get with campaigning, educating, distributing information, supporting asylum seekers at risk of deportation, collecting food and whatever other needs arise. If you have a bit of time and energy please contact us on or come to one of our regular meetings at The Common Place (23-25 Wharf St, LS1 near the market)

Leeds No Borders
- e-mail:


Additional news report

28.06.2006 17:02

The demonstration and welcome party lasted from 10am until 4pm. On arrival, the big car park gates to Waterside were locked, and a number of coppers stood guarding the smaller pedestrian entrance, which was staffed by 3 security guards. Normally what happens is that asylum seekers go through those gates to wait outside the actual building, often queuing in numbers of 30 to 50 for over an hour on busy days in all weather conditions. This time, however, they were forced to go through the humiliation of 'identity checks' at the gate.

Our presence had obviously forced the Home Office to change the system. Many asylum seekers had been contacted beforehand and told not to report that day. This meant that throughout the day, only a few dozen people trickled through the place. It also meant huge backlogs of people were seen reporting this week.

Most asylum seekers who visited Waterside came to see us, had a piece of cake, a drink, and took a leaflet about where they could find support and friendship. Some spent half an hour looking through the incredible free shop, taking much needed clothing and toys that were donated by others. They came with their usual array of horror stories of treatment back home and in the UK where they sought refuge.

One woman broke down as she told us she had just received her appeal rejection letter and didn't know what to do. She had no solicitor, no money, she had already attempted suicide to save her small daughter from returning to certain death - her story underlined again the appalling racist system of asylum and immigration in this country and across the rich world.

The reaction to our action from the public who passed by in their cars was mixed. Many drivers tooted their horns in support; many idiots rolled down their windows and shouted abuse. One well known toilet linked to Redwatch came and took our photos - he chatted with the cops and despite our protestations, they did nothing.

It was a very important action. We managed to make contact with more people and provide real support to one woman who was helpless - she now has some legal advice and will hopefully be given a chance to prove her claim. We also exposed in the media the reality of this place - BBC Leeds, Calendar, Radio Aire all reported our action in a good way.

There are plans to do this again but without advertising it to the old bill.