Croydon refugee protest: Activists gather in solidarity with attack victim Reker Ahmed

Robin De Peyer

Protesters gathered in Croydon to show solidarity with refugees after a 17-year-old asylum seeker was left fighting for his life in a horrific assault there.

The group marched through the south London borough as part of a protest organised by campaigners Stand Up To Racism.

The march comes after Kurdish Iranian student Reker Ahmed was beaten and kicked by a gang of around 30 while waiting at a bus stop in the town with two friends.

A stream of around 100 people travelled through Croydon on Saturday, brandishing signs and chanting: "No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here."

Weyman Bennett, 51, joint national convener for Stand Up to Racism, said the march was a "public display of sympathy and support" for Reker and his family.

Attack victim: Asylum seeker Reker Ahmed

He said: "I think it's a tragedy that Reker Ahmed has escaped a war zone to be attacked in Croydon.

"It's a tragedy both for the local people and obviously for himself and his family.

"We have to make sure that we welcome refugees and treat them with respect - because it's how we would like to be treated if we were refugees.

"There are problems in Croydon but they are not caused by refugees, they are caused by the problems that existed before refugees arrived inside this country."

Susan Cole, 48, from Croydon, said she had come along with her two children who felt "really strongly" about the issue.

She said: "I'm here today as a local Croydon resident to show my support to refugees.

"Croydon is a very tolerant area and I think it's really important that we show that today."

Another protester Cathy, 48, said most people in the community were "devastated" and "horrified" by the attack.

Ellen Clifford, local coordinator for Stand Up To Racism, said it was important to make sure "people don't feel frightened".

She said: "Today is a unity protest, it's about standing up to racism wherever it occurs, but it's also saying that's not who Croydon is.

"Croydon is a proud diverse community and we welcome refugees here.

"The majority of people in Croydon do welcome refugees and is proud of our diverse status."

Thirteen people, aged from 15 to 24, have been charged with violent disorder in connection with the attack.

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