Anti-racists on the march in Portland, Dorset, last weekend to say scrap the prison barge (Picture: Dorset SUTR)

Refugees evacuated from the Bibby Stockholm barge welcomed a big anti-racist ­demonstration in Portland, Dorset, last Saturday.

The march saw around 200 on the streets, including many local trade unionists, against the barge and to welcome refugees.

One refugee said, “Thank you for today and your hospitality, which made us forget the bitter memories of living in that barge. It reminded me how kind Portland and its people are.”

Another added, “Thank you for your kind and sincere hospitality. We enjoyed being with you today. I hope that one day I will be able to repay your efforts, my friends.”

One refugee went further to say the day had been the “best day I’ve had in this country”.

Protesters on the Stand Up to Racism-organised march headed from Fortuneswell, above Portland Port, and then joined refugees at the Let Music Unite festival on Chesil Beach. There they were joined by ­hundreds of other participants.

The refugees, who had been kept on the Bibby Stockholm and exposed to legionella bacteria, sent their thanks to local activists for organising the solidarity events.

Refugee “M” said, “Your efforts for us were truly commendable, and I hope we can repay it one day. Meeting you was truly delightful, and I hope to see you again soon.”

Ines Lage, secretary of the south west region of the TUC union federation, told the demonstration, “We in the trade union movement are proud to stand with you against this cruel barge.

“The barge is an emblem of the racist narrative being perpetuated by the government, stoking fear and ­scaremongering, distracting from the real crises in this country.”

Despite 39 refugees being removed from the barge after less than a week of being trapped on it, home secretary Suella Braverman is desperate to push refugees back on board. She has cut the barge’s ­capacity from 506 to 464—an 8 percent reduction.

Its original capacity was doubled so the Tories can make more refugees’ lives hell. The firefighters’ FBU union has raised numerous concerns about safety.

Its warnings are in addition to the finding of the deadliest form of legionella bacteria in the barge’s water supply.

Anti-racists in Portland are ­determined to keep up the fight. Lisa Shimmin, who lives in Fortuneswell, said, “We in Portland do not bow down to the far right and their hateful narrative, nor to Tories’ cruel games, which are just aimed to cause division,” she added.

Grafton Straker is a Unite union convenor and joint chair of SUTR Dorset. He said, “We don’t want this barge. We want safe routes for refugees to come to this country. Welcome everyone to Portland, and welcome refugees.”

Racist rump in Erskine left fuming in car park

A large turnout of Scottish anti-fascists pushed racists from their prized spot outside a refugee hotel in Erskine, near Glasgow, last weekend.

Local people joined delegations from the Unison, FBU, Unite and PCS unions, and refugees to occupy the space where the Nazis and their racist supporters hold weekly protests.

Anti-racists organised a community event where football, music, games, art, dancing and food took place—and direct action in the area where the fascists usually stand.

Glasgow Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) activist Rory, reports, “Police wanted us to move back but we held the land and the fascists were instead penned behind fencing in a car park.

“The local racists are demoralised. The Homeland group was nowhere to be seen. It appears there may be a break between Homeland and the core of local racists.

“One member of the Patriotic Alternative group remains on the scene. Nevertheless, their action lasted for an hour and half before they decided to leave. They had no chants, no shouting, a very quiet minority.”

Rory added, “This has been a true united front between trade unions, political parties, and groups built over seven months. The task isn’t finished as we have to face them again next week. But the back of the anti-refugee movement in Erskine is broken.”

Meanwhile in Wakefield near Leeds, about 50 anti-racists stood off against 15 racists to welcome refugees and say no to racist protests. The SUTR activists chanted, “Say it loud, say it clear—refugees are welcome here” and were joined by unions, community groups and Labour councillors.

And 30 anti-fascists confront some 60 fascists including National Front members in Dover last Saturday.


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