Activists pack Leeds park to welcome Afghanistan refugees to Yorkshire

Yorkshire people pride themselves on their friendly nature and Leeds folk were determined to show refugees some kindness as the tragedy of the West’s withdrawal from Afghanistan unfolds.

Tens of thousands of refugees have been making their way all over the world as the new Taliban government flexes its muscles with despairing scenes of families fearing the worst have filled out TV screens.

And what could be more British than the sight and sound of a steel band creating some much-needed cheer and a beacon of hope in Woodhouse Moor, Hyde Park?

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Activist Ellie Faulkner of Stand Up To Racism and Welcome in West Yorkshire was keen to show people are happy to welcome refugees and asylum seekers after often negative publicity in much of the national press.

Jonathan Pryor, deputy leader of Leeds City Council standing up for refugees at a rally in Leeds
Jonathan Pryor, deputy leader of Leeds City Council standing up for refugees at a rally in Leeds

Ellie said: “We want to send a message, there’s a lot of people in West Yorkshire who are happy to welcome people to move here and there are organisations available for people to get support.”

A refugee is someone who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster and an asylum seeker is a person who has left their home country as a political refugee and is seeking safety in another.

Among the speakers were Alex Sobel, a Labour MP who represents Leeds North West, activist Sam Kirk and Andrea Cowans, director of Student Life at Leeds City College.

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Johnathan Pryor, deputy leader, of Leeds City, also turned up to show his support.

Ellie said it was important to make people feel welcome. She said: “I thought it was something that I needed to do.

“I think we get a lot of things in the media focusing on the negative” but she added when you meet people they are actually positive about welcoming refugees.

Andrea said: “I’m here because I feel we need to stand in solidarity with people whose lives have been torn apart by events in Afghanistan and make them feel welcome in our city and our college.

“We would welcome them to come. Events like today give people a chance to express how they are feeling about events in the world.

“Our college is working towards becoming a college of sanctuary, a welcoming place.

“We want to bring them in to get the skills necessary to succeed in this country.

“We want them feel that they belong here. People are generally sympathetic and understanding.”

Ms Kirk of Leeds Stand up to Racism said she was delighted by a wonderful outpouring of support for the people of Afghanistan who have had to flee their homes.

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