“Resistance is possible”: Local community protects refugees in Scotland

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People in Glasgow stood by their neighbours in a peaceful protest against an immigration raid by the UK Home Office.

It is thought that the swoop took place early in the morning of 13th May where two men, Lakhvir Singh and Sumit Sehdev, were detained. Hundreds of people gathered in Pollockshieds, Glasgow, to protest their arrest by blocking the van that held them from leaving the street.  

The crowds grew throughout the day resulting in a stand-off between the community and the Home Office. They chanted: “these are our neighbours, let them go” in solidarity with the men. Eventually, around 5pm they were released from the van in the interest of public safety, bringing cheers and uproar from the protesters. 

The No Evictions Network, a local campaign group who were among the first to arrive to protest, described the powerful event as “a rare win in the fight against the hostile environment”. The No Evictions Network, The Scottish Refugee Council and leading politicians including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have called for a stop on dawn raids as a tactic by the Home Office. In a letter to the Home Office, they described dawn raids as “expensive, harmful and lacking in compassion and more often than not aimed at people who pose no threat to public safety”. 

In 2005, the Scottish parliament unanimously condemned dawn raids and sought to bring them to an end. Their claim was rejected by the UK Government in London. 

Many have also questioned the involvement of the local police force since Police Scotland are notified of dawn raids before they happen, the Guardian reports. Campaigners are asking that the force uses this prior knowledge to push back in the interest of minimising harm to the community. 

The Punk Buddhist Journalist/YouTube

Refugee History in Scotland

In 1999, The Home Office’s asylum dispersal programme aimed to relieve the pressures on South East England, where most people arrived in the UK. Glasgow City Council was the only local authority to take part at the time, hosting 10% of the asylum applicants. 

Since then, The New Scots Strategy was formed by Scottish Refugee Council, COSLA and the Scottish Government and endorsed by the UN Refugee Agency. New Scots adopts the principle of beginning the process of integration of refugees in Scotland from the day they arrive, no matter their status in the asylum process. 

Where it can, the Scottish Government’s integration strategy is enacted through an inclusive social policy and access to rights. Scotland is the only country in the UK that allows refugees to vote in devolved and council elections, people in the asylum process can access higher education. The Scottish Government is also trying to change the UK law which currently forbids asylum seekers from obtaining a work permit. 

The UK government’s integration strategy, which includes access to social services and the right to work, only begins after an individual is legally recognised as a refugee. 

The Punk Buddhist Journalist/YouTube

Struggle for immigration powers

Beyond bringing much needed diversity and economic benefits to Scotland, immigration is integral to future population growth. Scotland’s aging population and high levels of out-migration and low levels of fertility mean that immigration represents an integral part of Scotland’s future demographics, economy and social fabric. 

Immigration is projected to account for 90% of Scotland’s future population growth. But with Brexit and the UK Government’s immigration strategy, could lead to 50-80% decrease in net migration to Scotland.   

Scotland’s more universal, socially accessible approach to immigration and integration could be markedly improved through devolved immigration powers.

Currently, the asylum process is long, rights remain restricted and integration is difficult. Xenophobia and racism continues to rise across the UK following Brexit, making it all the more important that human rights of refugees are recognised and validated by the state.

Written by Ciaran Wark

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