Celebs urge UK PM Johnson to show 'kindness' to refugees

Celebrities urge UK PM Boris Johnson to show 'kindness and protection' to refugees
3 min read
23 October, 2021
Actors, comedians, and other famous faces signed an open letter to the UK government urging them to rethink the proposed Nationality and Borders Bill, which could turn away people 'in desperate need of safety'.
Together With Refugees is a coalition of organisations calling for more compassion for people fleeing war, persecution and violence [Getty]

Over 40 celebrities signed an open letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging his government to show “kindness and protection” to refugees. 

Actors such as Riz Ahmed, Douglas Booth and Olivia Colman as well as comedians Romesh Ranganathan and Shaparak Khorsandi were among those who signed the statement organised by Together With Refugees, a coalition of refugee rights groups. 

The open letter spoke about the vulnerabilities of people seeking refuge in Britain, many of whom are escaping from “grave danger”. It also slammed new laws proposed by Johnson’s government for “turning away people...in desperate need of safety”. 

“As a nation we must - and can - do more,” read the letter. 

“Now is the time to offer our hand it kindness and protection. We urge you to think again.”

The open letter referred specifically to the situation in Afghanistan, in which the Taliban’s lightning offensive resulted in mass displacement across the country and “horrifying scenes” of people trying to escape at Kabul airport.  

“If we were living in Afghanistan right now, our lives could be in danger, and we would have to become refugees,” the letter said. 

CEO of the Refugee Council and spokesperson for Together With Refugees Enver Solomon told The New Arab: "Most of the celebrities have been supporting refugee issues for a long time, working with us at Refugee Council and other coalition members. Some arrived here as refugees themselves and others have descendants who arrived as refugees. These influential and high profile voices are vital to raise awareness of these issues and we are enormously grateful for their support." 

Solomon also spoke about the "deeply concerning aspects" of the new Nationality and Borders bill. 

"People's claim for safety in the UK will no longer be based on the fact that they have had to flee war and persecution. Instead, it will be based on the arbitrary question of how they arrived here. This should be an entirely irrelevant factor and shockingly undermines the principles behind the UN Refugee Convention that we were so proud to sign 70 years ago," said Soloman.

The new bill, dubbed “the cornerstone" of the Conservative government’s New Plan for Immigration, has been widely criticised for penalising refugees who arrive in the UK via irregular routes. This includes families or individuals who come to Britain illegally because they’ve been forced to flee from violence and persecution in their home country. 

While the bill claims “to make the system fairer and more effective,” the UN Refugee Agency said that it will stigmatise those seeking asylum in the UK as “unworthy and unwelcome”. 

The open letter is one of several public campaigns Together With Refugees has launched against the bill. 

Hundreds rallied in London’s Parliament Square on Wednesday to show solidarity with refugees and express concern over the legislation. 

"We urge the Prime Minister and others in Parliament to rethink this cruel anti-refugee bill and instead build a fair, kind and effective system for how we support refugees in this country," said Solomon.