Hundreds of protesters gathered on a Glasgow street today in an attempt to prevent immigration officers from detaining people.
Residents from Kenmure Street, in Glasgow’s Southside, and the nearby area, surrounded an immigration enforcement van following a dawn raid carried out by the Home Office on Thursday (13 May).
The vehicle, which was surrounded by police officers, was holding two male detainees and the protesters were blocking it to stop it from driving away.
One man forced himself under the van while others were sitting on the road in front of it.
The men detained in the raid have since been released, with Police Scotland basing the decision on “public health and well-being”.
A statement from Police Scotland said: “In order to protect the safety, public health and well-being of all people involved in the detention and subsequent protest in Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, today, Chief Superintendent Mark Sutherland has, following a suitable risk assessment, taken the operational decision to release the men detained by UK Immigration Enforcement back into their community in the meantime.”
There were violent clashes between the demonstrators and police earlier in the afternoon. Three people are thought to have been arrested.
The raid took place on Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, which fuelled much of the anger of the crowd who had gathered to prevent it.
People were chanting “Let them go!” and “Refugees are welcome here”.
Imam Hassan Rabbani from Zia Ul Quran Centre Mosque on the street said the detainees are “much loved in the community”, which is why such large numbers had come out to protest.
He told NationalWorld: “Today’s our Eid, we’ve just finished Ramadan, and we were hoping to come and do some prayers quietly.
“In the morning, at about 8am, two Asian men were picked up by immigration.
“Then we saw vans and vans of police and it became much more serious. We saw a couple of people hiding under the van.
“It’s very disturbing for us during Eid. I brought my daughter along and she was quite upset.”
Imam Rabbani added that Pollokshields is “one of the most diverse places in Scotland” and called the protest “important” for the community.
One woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, told us she had come to Kenmure Street to protest about the dawn raids and the UK Government’s “hostile environment” policy.
“Immigrants and asylum seekers can’t feel safe in their own neighbourhoods - neighbourhoods that they helped build and neighbourhoods that flourish off diversity and unity,” she said.
“The hostile environment policy has created this horrible fear in so many people’s lives. It’s not acceptable.
“I’m Iraqi myself, my dad grew up in the UK from when he was 16 and faced so many racist and discriminatory policies and he had the hardest time just building a life for himself. I faced very similar things when I moved here.
She added: “I’ve also worked with refugees for the past five years and knowing what they have to go through on a daily basis is unacceptable.”
‘These asylum seekers are innocent civilians’
Thomas Strain, 19, was supposed to be taking his property law exam today but chose to prioritise the demonstration over his test.
He told us: “This is someone’s life, whereas the exam is just a resit for me.
“I see people that will post everything on social media when it’s just a trend, but if you’re not willing to show up when it matters for people your words mean nothing.
“These asylum seekers are innocent civilians who contribute so much and give so much diversity to our city and I think this is absolutely vile.”
People with megaphones were giving speeches during the protest.
One of them was Roza Salih, a human rights activist who stood as an SNP list candidate during the May election.
She told NationalWorld that UK immigration officials had to be stopped “from detaining asylum seekers in this inhumane and cruel way”.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused the Home Office of creating “a dangerous and unacceptable situation” with the action.
Ms Sturgeon, who was sworn in on Thursday as MSP for Glasgow Southside, tweeted: “As constituency MSP, I am deeply concerned by this action by the Home Office, especially today in the heart of a community celebrating Eid.
“My office is making urgent enquiries and stands ready to offer any necessary assistance to those detained.”
The area’s MP, Allison Thewliss, tweeted saying she had contacted the UK Government to demand they abandon the removal.
Chris Stephens, SNP MP for the neighbouring constituency Glasgow South West, was in attendance at the protest.
He told NationalWorld: “Today the people of Glasgow are demonstrating against the dawn raids this morning by the Home Office and are blocking the van from moving their fellow Glaswegians.
“I think what you’re seeing today is a clear demonstration of what the people of Glasgow think of the UK’s immigration policies.
“I hope there’s a chance of success today - I think the determination of the people of Glasgow has shown that they will not stand for this racist UK Home Office policy.”