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Glasgow - direct action group UNITY goes public!

Damian Henderson | 11.04.2006 02:42 | April 2006 No Borders Days of Action | Anti-racism | Migration | Social Struggles | World

Hundreds of asylum seekers are planning a campaign of direct action to prevent immigration officers removing people who are threatened with deportation.
Using prearranged phone networks, they aim to erect human barricades in front of flats and houses to prevent officials gaining access and set up watches to alert people who fear being taken into detention.

The radical tactics are being deployed by Unity, a new organisation set up by asylum seekers living in Scotland to campaign for improved rights and support for people whose cases have been rejected by the Home Office.
Despite the high profile of asylum campaigns in Scotland, it is thought to be the first time asylum seekers have formed their own organisation and comes amid a mood of rising anger over the practice of "dawn raids" and forcible removals.
Unity, which its members describe as akin to a trade union, will also campaign against the government's removal of the right to work, introduced in the 2002 Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act.
Charlton Samazie, a 45-year-old Zimbabwean who faces deportation by the Home Office, said the radical tactics were being undertaken in desperation by people who feared arrest and torture if they are returned to their home country.
"We have decided to form a union because we are facing a dead end. We do not see any future or light. Although we are all from different countries and may not have much in common, we have got similar problems with the Home Office.
"Why should we live in fear? We came here to be protected but now it is the opposite," he said.
Preventing asylum seekers from working not only forced them into poverty but cut them off from the rest of the Scottish workforce, adding to the racism and isolation they encountered, Mr Samazie said. "Most asylum seekers want to work for their families but they're not allowed to by the Home Office. We don't want to live on benefits, we are hard workers," he added.
Housed in a converted shop, the Unity headquarters in Ibrox appears to be an ill-prepared place to start a fight with the Home Office. But beneath the chaos lies a concerted attempt to make life more difficult for immigration officials' attempts to remove failed asylum seekers from Scotland.
Every day, people who are required to sign in at the immigration offices in Brand Street, just round the corner, drop by to leave keys, contact phone numbers and details of their lawyers in case they are not allowed to return.
The mood among the handful of Unity members who agreed to talk to The Herald is one of frustration, anger and defiance. Hamid Mahmood, 50, from Pakistan, said: "I have 25 years' experience in banking but that is worth nothing here."

Saima Asim, who is also from Pakistan, added: "We are treated like animals. You cannot throw people in a cage. The way asylum seekers are treated is making so many suffer. It is making them ill, desperate."

Around 6000 asylum seekers are currently resident in Glasgow, having been dispersed to Scotland to relieve pressure on London and the south of England. On Saturday more than 300 gathered outside the Glasgow immigration offices in Ibrox, and marched into the city centre to mark the formal launch of Unity.

The network has already clashed with Glasgow city council and last week prevented the eviction of a 60-year-old Afghani disabled man after his housing support was removed by the National Asylum Support Scheme.

The volunteers at the centre of the organisation are working to improve legal representation for asylum seekers taken into detention to combat the process known as "ghosting", where families arrested over the weekend are removed to a detention centre in England before they have a chance to appeal their case in front of a Scottish court.

Damian Henderson
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Display the following 2 comments

  1. You guys are awesome.. — pru
  2. Well done! — John