A newspaper advert conceived by sculptor Anish Kapoor and musician Anoushka Shankar is calling on the UK government to take in more refugees.
The full-page advert, published in today’s Guardian, was signed by major celebrities including chef Jamie Oliver and actors Keira Knightley, Colin Firth, Sir Michael Caine and Benedict Cumberbatch.
The message says Britain has a “moral responsibility” to offer safe haven to people fleeing persecution and war and that the government’s response to the refugee crisis in Europe has been “too little, too late”.
“A responsibility that should be shared with our European neighbours and not simply shouldered by the countries closest to the turbulence driving people from their homes”, the ad says.
“Whilst we appreciate the UK government’s recent commitments on refugee resettlement, we worry that this is too little, too late,” it adds.
The advert was conceived and organised by Mumbai-born sculptor Kapoor, musician Anoushka Shankar, her filmmaker husband Joe Wright, London-based South African artist Adam Broomberg and Jamie Byng, owner of the independent publisher Canongate.
“I was motivated by a sense of outrage against our doctrinaire government, which had been so grossly unjust,” Kapoor told the Guardian.
“We have taken the view that it is better to have an influence on policy than send direct aid – we hope to apply pressure to change the government’s position. Although sadly I doubt we will, we believe public opinion is with us.”
The message comes days after David Cameron announced that Britain would take in 20,000 Syrians from refugee camps bordering Syria over the next five years.
He refused to allow any of the tens of thousands of refugees who have arrived in Europe in the past few weeks to settle in the UK, saying that would encourage human trafficking.
However, critics say Mr Cameron’s pledge is just not enough, when countries such as Germany, Sweden and France have pledged to re-settle tens of thousands more refugees than Britain.
Kapoor said Mr Cameron’s refusal amounted to a sort of “polite fascism”.
“20,000 people over five years, that’s 4,000 people now, in this immediate crisis? When we’re looking at who knows how many thousands of people arriving in the next month? It’s pathetic,” he said.
“Britain is identifying itself with the fascists, and we are not that. This is a new kind of fascism, a fascism that is polite. Cameron comes across as a nice guy, but he’s more rightwing than anything we’ve known.”
Mr Cameron has also refused – along with the governments of Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – to sign up to a quota system proposed by Germany and France that would require the UK to take 18,000 asylum seekers.