PICTURES: Hundreds march through Lewes to support refugees

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Hundreds of people took to the streets of Lewes at the weekend (October 31) to demonstrate their support for refugees.

An estimated 400 people took part in the march, co-organised by the Lewes Amnesty International Group, the Lewes Group in Support of Refugees and Asylum Seekers and Diversity Lewes.

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A banner with the wording ‘Refugees Welcome Here’ was displayed on the façade of Lewes Town Hall as a petition calling for the town to settle ten refugee families gathered support.

The action comes in response to what the UN has recently declared to be the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

The march was led by the Mayor of Lewes Susan Murray from County Hall to Cliffe Precinct, where she addressed a rally. Participants and members of the public were also asked to sign the petition, set up by the Mayor.

The petition, which was initiated at the beginning of this month via the campaigning organisation 38 Degrees, has to date successfully collected more than 1,055 signatures. Over 220 signatures were additionally collected during the march on Saturday and these will be added to the online petition.

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Once the total number of signatures collected rises to 1,500, Lewes District Council will be obliged to organise a full discussion of the Mayor’s proposal. With the number of signatures now set to total almost 1,300, only 200 more are needed for this full discussion to take place.

The petition is available at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/refugees-welcome-in-lewes.

Mayor Susan Murray said: “It was an honour as mayor of Lewes to lead the march expressing a welcome to Lewes for refugees and to speak at the rally afterwards.

“Somewhere between 350 and 400 local residents joined the march, which is an indication of just how much Lewes has taken to heart the plight of refugees across Europe - and beyond - and really wants to help.

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“This was also an occasion to rejoice at the release from the hell-hole that is Guantanamo of Shaker Aamer and to wish him well for the future.

“Of course, Guantanamo is a part of the whole infrastructure of the so-called ‘war on terror’.

“This has destabilised countries across the Middle East and beyond as well as contributing to the rise of vile groups like Islamic State, which in turn have fuelled the huge number of people on the move desperately seeking a safe haven and a better life for themselves and their families.

“Meanwhile the same and other regions are also suffering the consequences of climate change, which means more competition for resources and more people looking for new homes elsewhere. We in the UK cannot escape our responsibility for these events and therefore it seems to me that we have a moral duty to welcome as many as possible of the refugees from these impossible situations and enable them to start a new life here.

“I know that Lewes stands ready to help if only the district council will set up the necessary infrastructure to bring together refugees and people able to offer them a home or other assistance.

“Please keep signing the online petition. Meanwhile I know that heroic efforts are going on locally to fundraise for support for refugees, especially these languishing in Calais. As part of that I am proud as Mayor to be hosting a fundraiser at the town hall on November 18, which will bring together many talented local residents offering their services for free. It promises to be a wonderful evening.”

Fore more information on the work of the Lewes Amnesty International Group, visit the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/lewesamnestyinternational.

The group has previously demonstrated its support for refugees on a weekend walk to the Seven Sisters, taking in areas including Seaford Beach and Cuckmere Haven.

The human rights group carried placards with the #RefugeesWelcome slogan, which has been trending on social media over recent weeks, in efforts to highlight the plight of people caught up in the refugee crisis.

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