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Glasgow Demonstrators Denounce Deportations and Evictions

Mike | 11.11.2003 14:12 | Anti-racism | Migration | Repression

"This is beyond humanity", cried a woman from Rwanda. "I fled for my life from Rwanda, now this Friday here in Glasgow they are coming to evict me and deport me."

Demonstrators rallied outside the Glasgow City Council Chambers in George Square last night, 9th November, to denounce the Council's new policy of evicting refugees who have been refused asylum. Protestors erected tents in the Square to illustrate the reality of the State's inhuman policies.

Asif, a refugee from Afghanistan, spoke on behalf of the Glasgow Refugee Action Group. "The Glasgow City Council are making millions of pounds from their contract with the Home Office to take refugees. Now they are throwing the refugees out on the street....We appreciate the support of ordinary people in Scotland. This is not the end of our struggle but the beginning."

Around 150-200 people rallied in Glasgow's George Square on a cold night to show solidarity with the threatened asylum seekers. Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees revealed the harsh situation:
"As the Scottish winter begins to bite, Glasgow City Council has, on the instruction of the Home Office, begun a programme of evictions of asylum seekers from their homes. Around 180 households who have been refused asylum have received notices and once evicted they will have no access to any public housing or council homelessness services, and no entitlement to any form of state support whatsoever...."

"Refugee charities estimate that, following the initial evictions, Glasgow asylum seekers will be evicted at a rate of up to ten every week.....More than 20 asylum applicants have been evicted in recent weeks. Refused housing or state benefits by the Home Office's National Asylum Support Service, they have depended on the support of people within their local communities, refugee groups and the asylum rights movement."

"From detention in centres like Dungavel, to deportation and, now, deliberately enforced destitution, this Labour government has created an asylum regime even more draconian than those of its Tory predecessors."

Asif of the Glasgow Refugee Action Group recounted his experience at a recent meeting he addressed. "I asked how many of the audience had relatives living overseas, for example in Australia or North America. About half those present put their hands up. For centuries Scots have emigrated abroad to seek a better life. There is nothing wrong with that. Why shouldn't people be able to come here to do the same?"

One demonstrator told Indymedia: "Businesses move resources and investment freely around the world to maximise their profits. But ordinary people face restrictions and repression. State frontiers are artificial and are used to control people. Surely the planet should belong to us all, and we should be free to travel and live where we want, with no borders?"

Another argued "Now we all need to discuss, together with the asylum seekers themselves, what we can do practically to stop the refugees being evicted and deported. For example in France the "Sans Papiers" and supporters are defying deportations and have squatted public buildings. Words are not enough, it's time for direct action!"

Other speakers at the rally in George Square included a representative from the EIS teachers union, the Scottish Socialist Party councillor from Pollok, and member of Parliament John McAllion. The rally was to be followed by a public meeting in nearby Strathclyde Students union.

The speaker from Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees pointed out that similar demos are taking place round Britain. Women seeking asylum who have been made destitute and homeless under the government's asylum laws joined the Global Women's Strike Community Anti-War picket outside the UK Parliament on 6th November. Over 20 women fleeing rape and other torture joined regular picket-goers, and several spoke movingly about their experiences. The Picket supported the "Sleep Out in Solidarity" being held the following day by the Liverpool Committee Against Destitution to protest against Section 55 and other measures which are making people destitute.
(Info - Liverpool Committee Against Destitution : The Crossroads Coalition for Justice for Asylum Seekers - Tel: 0207-482 2496, Fax: 020-7209 4761)

  • Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees have launched an appeal for donations of toys and other presents for refugee children and teenagers. To help or to arrange delivery or uplift of presents, phone 07870 286 632

    Contact Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees
  • Upcoming national anti racist and anti fascist St Andrews Day demo, Glasgow Sat 29th Nov. Meet 10.30am in Blythswood Square, march off at 11am. More info STUC 0141 337 8100
More info: No Border Campaign, National Coalition of Anti Deportation Campaigns

Reports on the public meeting at Strathclyde Studenst Union which followed the George Square demo, additional reporting on the George Square speakers and activity, and related news would be very welcome - our Indy Scotland cub reporter missed some of the speakers, and naturally "everyone is a journalist".



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Public meeting

13.11.2003 09:49

Public meeting in solidarity with refugees
It was standing room only as over 500 people packed the debating chamber at Strathclyde University Union, following the protest at George Square. Around a third of those present were refugees, including three people refused asylum and facing eviction this week.

The meeting was chaired by Kenny Ross, Scottish Regional Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union. The speakers were Mark Brown, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees; Mohammed Asif, Glasgow Refugee Action Group; Kath Sainsbury, National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns; Emma Ginn, Close Campsfield Campaign; Patrick Harvie, Green Party; Robina Qureshi, Positive Action in Housing; Sandra White, MSP Scottish Nationalist Party; Elaine Smith Labour Party; Rosie Kane, Scottish Socialist Party.

The meeting heard impassioned speeches on the two themes of the night – demanding an end to the destitution of asylum seekers, and for the closure of Dungavel refugee prison.

Unjust laws must be broken
There were calls from the floor, echoed by some of the speakers, for a demand that Glasgow City Councillors resist central government threats and stop carrying out the evictions. It was heard that the city council released a press statement last week declaring that it would be illegal to allow failed asylum seekers to remain their homes, and that councillors could be barred from office for five years, so their hands are tied. Sandra White of the SNP said that “unjust laws must be broken”, and Rosie Kane said that if councillors hands were tied she would like to chuck them into the Clyde to see what it feels like to be as helpless as a refugee thrown into destitution and threatened with deportation.

There were many trade unionists present at the meeting, and it was suggested that a call go out to all union members to refuse to co-operate with the evictions. It was also pointed out that proposed legislation, likely to be introduced in the new year, will see council staff faced with the ethical dilemma of being instructed to take into care the children of people refused asylum who refuse to return to their countries of origin.

Human Rights?
It was pointed out by a Glasgow refugee support worker that the council was given guidance earlier in the year on supporting people refused asylum, which states that support can be provided to the minimum level to needed to avoid breaching human rights legislation. The guidance does not say what this minimum level is, but it can be assumed that David Blunkett’s view of human rights for refugees is somewhat different to that of a decent human being.

The Council has so far not had the bottle to declare what they think is the absolute minimum support required to comply with Articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – that is, the right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment (3) and the right to respect for one’s private and family life, one’s home and correspondence (8).

Direct Action
It appears that the councillors are too afraid to resist central government on this one, but there were many calls at the meeting for direct action in support of people facing eviction. A speaker from the floor recalled the great history of community resistance to evictions in Glasgow and beyond, citing the late great Harry McShane and in recent years the massive grassroots campaign of direct action against the poll tax. This call for action was enthusiastically received by all, with talk of phone trees being set up to mobilise at short notice to prevent evictions. Other suggestions were occupations of council and Home Office property in Scotland.

Fighting Deportations
But resisting the evictions is only the first step. Kath Sainsbury of the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns reminded everyone that most of the people being evicted will at some point be faced with deportation. The NCADC has fought 112 cases in recent years, where they have been successful in having deportation orders overturned, and many other cases have been successful without public campaigns. Apart from lobbying the Home Office, anti-deportation campaigns rely on community support and on direct action to physically prevent deportation.

Just the beginning…
All in all this was a very positive evening. It was agreed by all that this is must be the start of a solid campaign against the racist policies of the Home Office that force people into destitution or send them to prison for the crime of fleeing persecution.

If Glasgow City Council will not stand up to Blunkett, then the people of Glasgow will stand by their neighbours to prevent the evictions and fight against deportations. If the Scottish Executive continues to say nothing but “Westminster reserved matter” over the jailing of innocent men women and children at Dungavel, then the people of Scotland will take to the streets to make sure that our voices are heard.

michael c


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