Skip to content or view screen version

Time runs out for Kosovo family

By Shirley English | 30.09.2005 21:20

The Times Friday 30th September 2005,,174-1804358,00.html

A weeping 13-year-old girl woke a Glasgow charity worker in the early hours of yesterday morning to inform her that her family was being deported.

The telephone call was made from the Yarls Wood Detention Centre, near Bedford, by Saida Vucaj, a Kosovan asylum-seeker who has lived in Glasgow for five years, is a pupil at the city's Drumchapel High School and has come to speak with a Scottish accent.

Robina Qureshi, director of the campaign group Postive Action in Housing, said: "I was woken by Saida, weeping and exhausted at 4.21am. She said they had woken her and her family and told them to get dressed. She said they were taking her and her family back to 'our country'. Then the line went dead."

Ms Qureshi tried to call back but was told by the centre switchboard that she could not be put through until 7am, by which time the Vucaj family would be gone. Yesterday it was confirmed that they had been placed on a 10am flight from Stansted to Pristina by the authorities.

Saida was taken to Yarls Wood 17 days ago with her parents and two brothers, Nimet, 16, and Elvis, 18, after their home in Glasgow was raided by up to 16 immigration officers at dawn on September 13. The officers allegedly forced their way into the house and handcuffed her father and elder brother and took the children from the house still wearing their pyjamas.

Ms Qureshi said: "I am disgusted by this calculated, unremitting barbarity known as the UK asylum and immigration policy, that has broken that little girl's heart. The shame will haunt this country."

She was not alone in her anger as Scottish politicians, celebrities, human rights campaigners and the family's neighbours and schoolfriends united to condemn the Home Office's tactics. A website set up to highlight the family's plight received numerous messages of support.

Patrick Harvie, Green MSP, called the deportation "scandalous and barbaric" and demanded that dawn raids be suspended with immediate effect.

Last week he led a debate on the asylum issue in the Scottish Parliament after criticism of the Vucaj family's treatment. His motion forced Jack McConnell, the First Minister, to break his silence on the matter and criticise the "excessive" force used in their removal.

Mr McConnell subsequently met Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, and secured an agreement to introduce a protocol in Scotland in which education officials and social services would be involved in any future deportation involving children. However, yesterday the First Minister refused to comment directly on the Vucaj family's circumstances.

Yesterday Mr Harvie said: "This is yet another shameful and disgusting example of this Government's treatment of children. I find it appalling that just one week after the Executive was forced to act, that this can happen again to the same family."

A demonstration in protest is planned in Glasgow tomorrow, while class-mates at Drumchapel High School have launched a petition.

It was also announced yesterday that the actor and film director Peter Mullan will join a delegation to Kosovo to find the family and chart their progress on film later in the year.

Jamie O'Neill, 18, a close friend of Elvis Vucaj, who played in the school rugby squad, said: "I spoke to Elvis and Nimet on Monday and they are not the happy guys I knew a few weeks ago. They sounded exhausted, tired and scared. I told them not to give up, because I won't. Scotland deserves them and I miss them. I don't want to lose them."

By Shirley English


Display the following 3 comments

  1. why — dolly the Sheeple
  2. let down — maurice frank
  3. Safe? — Jamie O'Neill