Swindon Solidarity with Refugees

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NO HATE, NO FEAR, REFUGEES ARE WELCOME HERE

On Saturday 5 September Swindon town centre was the place local groups and people from all walks of life showed their solidarity for the refugees escaping war zones and respect for the thousands of individual human beings, men, women and children who have drowned in their desperate attempt to escape.

Members of Swindon People’s Assembly (SPA), 38 Degrees, Swindon Anarchists, TransSwindonThe Harbour Project and Swindon-Calais Solidarity joined to demonstrate and give a resounding message to our government that people drowning, suffocating and fleeing their homes to be stranded in makeshift shelters if they are among the fortunate ones who survive is inhumane and unacceptable.

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On an overcast and damp Saturday morning demonstrators were chalking silhouettes of human bodies to represent the dead, the victims of what can only be called a human disaster. Other demonstrators were asking passers-by to sign petitions to government and providing information on where donations of basic necessities could be given for those stranded in Calais in appalling conditions. Generous members of the public donated money towards the fuel and ferry costs of a trip to Calais to bring aid and support to those in need.

Figures from UNICEF state about 3000 people from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq are in transit through Macedonia every day. A third of this number are women and children. The International Organisation for Migration states 3200 people have drowned whilst attempting the Libya-Italy crossing last in and a further 2500 have perished this year.

The United Nations estimate of 220,000 of Syrian deaths during the conflict is believed to be much higher, and according to a doctor working in Syria it is likely to be double that estimate. After a barrel-bomb strike it is impossible to accurately count casualties as many bodies are buried under rubble and cannot be recovered.

Syrians are living through a hurricane of barrel-bombs being dropped by the Assad regime. A barrel-bomb is an old oil barrel filled with explosives, nails, gasoline, chlorine and other chemicals. They are crude, ruthless and indiscriminate when they are dropped on heavily populated civilian areas.

Despite this our right-wing media and government wishes to convince us that refugees and migrants are less than human BUT there are those among us who will not be deluded. These people are human beings just like us. They are mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers and sisters just like we are.

SPA leader Kate Linnegar says “Let your MP know that the people of Swindon find it unacceptable that people are drowning and suffocating in lorries. That over 3000 people are living in squalor in the camp at Calais. We don’t know what the solutions are but expect our government to try to find solutions immediately. David Cameron has had to capitulate to public horror at this crisis. We need to keep the pressure up.” Add your voice to the campaign here

Refugees in Calais

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Bus Services and No Concessions

On 12 August I attended a meeting between local residents and various official representatives from Swindon Borough Council and Thamesdown Transport.

In October 2013 bus route 26 was taken out of service leaving many of the elderly and disabled members of the Rodbourne community without feasible access to local transport. This is not just the odd one or two people but a large percentage of the local community. It has left vulnerable people unable to get to town and more importantly finding it exceedingly difficult to access the medical services they need.

During late 2014 and 2015 the roadworks at Bruce Street Bridges have made the main bus routes 13 and 14 haphazard and unreliable. Whilst Thamesdown Transport has understandably diverted the buses via Paddington Drive it has also meant passengers living in Rodbourne have been left with even further distances to walk – not an easy or even possible task when a person is mobility impaired.

The excuse that the bus companies do not make a profit to sustain route 26 is a valid one until the question of where do the funds and grants given by the use of concessionary bus passes go if not to support bus routes where they are essential for those card holders. The whole point of a concessionary bus pass is to provide essential services of transport to the more vulnerable members of the community.

If Thamesdown Transport are unable to provide that service then why are the council not looking into using the concession grants to fund a service to do what is needed. It is not unreasonable to consider such transport services as part of social care when the more vulnerable members of our community are being isolated by lack of transport. Isolation that results in added mental and physical health issues which in turn put greater demand and expense on care services.

Labour Needs Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

For too long the Labour Party has played the central ground leaving the British public with little choice who governs this country. I supported Ed Miliband at the last election it was really a case of ‘oh god we have got to get the vile Tories out.’

I stand up, not always quietly, for what I believe in. With Miliband’s resignation the Labour Party I and many other members want to see is one that returns to the grass roots. We have four candidates to choose from, three of whom are so Tory they make Dave Cameron et al look like commies. Labour does not need the centralist Thatcheristic policies of Tony Blair for god’s sake. Good grief he took us into a war, an illegal war which we are still having to deal with.

The whole point of an Opposition is that it opposes the ruling party. Why are the likes of Harriet Harman and Liz Kendall lying down in meek acquiescence when the working and vulnerable people of this country are screaming out? Jeremy Corbyn, Dennis Skinner and Diane Abbot can hear that scream and are fighting back. This country needs a strong voice to say ‘No’ to the ruling elite as they try to destroy our country with austerity, selling off the NHS and the breakdown of human rights.

Corbyn has stormed through the leadership contest from that of rank outsider to being the strongest and most supported candidate. That tells me there is room in the public opinion for radical change. There is a whole generation out there that has never had an alternative to Thatcherism and now is the time to change that. Jeremy Corbyn can do that. This country needs that.

UK Austerity Harms Our Children

 

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Children are arriving in school hungry, sick, without equipment and inadequately dressed. It sounds like something from a Charles Dickens novel but it is not – it is 2015 and this is the UK.

A survey commissioned by NASUWT reports that children are coming to school “hungry, and unable to concentrate, exhausted from living in cramped and inadequate housing and unable to afford to join in activities”.

How is it that a child in 2015 Britain can arrive at school hungry and with no socks or coat? The following statistics show how the lives of our children and young people are being degraded by poverty and they are truly shocking.

80% of teachers report seeing children attending school inadequately dressed in winter;
78% report seeing pupils lacking energy and concentration because of hunger;
62% have lent, given or paid for basic equipment needed for school;
32% have taught pupils living in temporary accommodation.

We are not a poor nation nor a third world one, why are our children suffering like this?

These shocking statistics come after five years of governmental austerity measures that have and will continue to put unnecessary pressure on hard pushed parents. Parents who have no choice but to send a sick child into school because they cannot afford to take time off work. Parents who have been made homeless by rising housing costs. Parents who are reliant on food banks to feed their children.

The government claims to be committed to providing higher quality education for all children but it is a fact a child who has no food to eat, no secure home, no books to read, whose parents cannot afford the money to get them to school or provide them with adequate school clothing will not be learning to their full ability, it is just not possible.

Poverty and homelessness as a result of governmental austerity will take a physical and emotional toll on our children. A tired child who has no secure home or space to do homework, is hungry and lacks the ability to concentrate is more likely to suffer sickness, long-term ill health and therefore prolonged absenteeism,