Protest in Norwich against legislation to 'criminalise asylum seekers'

Nationality and Borders Bill Protest

Activists marched through the city Saturday afternoon in protest against the government's Nationality and Borders Bill. - Credit: Extinction Rebellion Norwich

Activists took to the streets of Norwich in protest against the government's Nationality and Borders Bill.

About 200 people attended the demonstration, which began at City Hall at 1pm on Saturday, before making their way through the city.

The day of action was organised by a coalition of Norfolk campaign groups, who say the proposed legislation will "criminalise asylum seekers".

Extinction Rebellion and Cop 26 Coalition protest Norwich against Nationality and Borders Bill

Norfolk South MP Clive Lewis was among the speakers at the event, which began at City Hall. - Credit: Extinction Rebellion Norwich

Cat Acheson, activist with Extinction Rebellion Norwich and the Cop 26 Coalition Norfolk, said: "Britain is trying to turn itself into a fortress nation, trying to make it impossible for asylum seekers and refugees to find sanctuary in this country. 

"We are deeply concerned and terrified about the bill as it criminalises people who come to the country not from 'legal routes'.

"Refugees are often fleeing horrible, traumatic situations and we have a duty of care to protect them.

"This is all happening in the context of a climate crisis which is expected to displace over 1 billion people over the next few decades." 

Extinction Rebellion and activist coalition against Nationality and Borders Bill protest Norwich

An inflatable boat was carried through the city during the march - Credit: Extinction Rebellion Norwich

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The proposed bill has drawn substantial criticism from activists across the country, who say it "undermines law and the Refugee Convention" by putting people arriving in the UK at risk of prison sentences.

Inflatable boats and life jackets were laid upon the steps of city hall, which organisers say illustrates the "devastating effects of a failed asylum system."

People held signs and placards and the inflatable boat was held aloft by protesters as they travelled through the city's streets.

Norwich protest against Nationality and Borders Bill

Activists marching through the streets of Norwich to protest the government's Nationality and Borders Bill. - Credit: Extinction Rebellion Norwich

The march ended outside the offices of Conservative MP for Norwich North, Chloe Smith, who voted in favour of the bill.

Protestors laid still on the ground for five minutes outside her office in a symbolic gesture to "represent the deaths of refugees attempting to reach Britain". 

Extinction Rebellion and Cop 26 protest Norwich

Protestors staged a "die-in" outside Norwich North MP Chloe Smith's offices, where they lied on the floor for five minutes to symbolise those who have died while travelling to the UK to seek refuge - Credit: Extinction Rebellion Norwich

Ms Acheson added: "We wanted to show that the people of Norwich oppose the legislation. Norwich is a city of sanctuary that welcomes refugees."

Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South was among the speakers at the event and called the bill "an attack on human rights" and "the most draconian piece of legislation I've ever seen".