Tens of thousands of Europeans took to streets in London and elsewhere across the continent Saturday in a massive demonstration of support and solidarity for those seeking refuge from the war and violence in the Middle East.
The day of action was called to welcome the refugees, and send a signal to leaders worldwide who have either turned their back or or reluctantly agreed to house a small portion of the migrants.
"We can't continue to allow thousands to die trying to reach Europe as they search for safety, hope and the chance to live another day," reads a Facebook page promoting the day of action. "We can't stay silent anymore as our politicians and the media are stigmatizing these men, women and children as threats and burdens. We can't let our governments close all our borders and build fences to keep people in need out. That's not what Europe should be about."
"It's time speak out against the deadly borders that have been enacted in our name," the group continues. "We want to let all the refugees know: You are welcome!"
Organizers are asking governments to prioritize the fast processing of asylum claims for people from particularly tumultuous regions, such as Syria.
Actions are being staged in countries including Belgium, Austria, Ireland, Romania, Greece, Finland, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Spain, Turkey and France.And in the United Kingdom, organizers anticipated as many as 80,000 to join the march to Downing Street, where the newly-elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and musician and activist Billy Bragg addressed the crowd.
Corbyn said: "Recognise your obligations to help people which you’re required to do by law, that would be good. But above all, open your hearts and open your minds and open your attitude towards supporting people who are desperate, who need somewhere safe to live, want to contribute to our society, and are human beings just like all of us. Together in peace, together in justice, together in humanity, that surely must be our way forward."
Elsewhere, supporters shared expressions of solidarity online with the hastag #RefugeesWelcome.
— Mark Knudsen (@MarkbKnudsen) September 12, 2015
— Amnesty UK (@AmnestyUK) September 12, 2015
— Aoife Davis (@aoife90davis) September 12, 2015
The day of action comes ahead of an EU emergency meeting in Brussels on Monday.
On Friday, the International Organization of Migrants released its latest figures on the crisis. Overall, more than 430,000 people had crossed the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year, with 2,748 dying or going missing en route.