Glasgow community rallies around failed asylum seekers

// 14 June 2008

This report by the Guardian shows a Glasgow community coming together to block attempts to forcibly remove and deport asylum seekers who have become friends and neighbours.

It’s frankly a relief; it’s a welcome break from endless anti-immigrant reporting in the press.

As Madam Miaow says:

Moving and uplifting. A rare example of a media report that doesn’t present the working class and immigrants as beasts but shows humanity at its best.

See also the feature that ran in G2 last week, about efforts to stop dawn raids at the Kingsway estate, which disrupts the convenient narrative of racist, anti-immigrant working class white people.

But when hundreds of asylum seekers were placed there to live – often for years – while their cases were processed, they were warmly embraced. “We had been really going downhill – a lot of antisocial families were being put here. But after a year of the asylum seekers coming, the atmosphere became completely different,” Donnachie says. “These people couldn’t do enough for you, and I thought this was wonderful – it was like going back to when I was a child and you could leave the key in the door and if you needed help someone would come round.”

The estate became home for hundreds of families escaping persecution and torture in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Algeria, Uganda and Congo. Most had their request for asylum in the UK turned down, and when the Home Office began coming to the estate at 5am to remove them, Donnachie and the rest of the residents looked on in horror. “It was like watching the Gestapo – men with armour, going in to flats with battering rams. I’ve never seen people living in fear like it,” says Donnachie. “I saw a man jump from two storeys up when they came for him and his family. I stood there and I cried, and I said to myself, ‘I am not going to stand by and watch this happen again.'”

Comments From You

Rachel // Posted 15 June 2008 at 10:08 am

This story made me cry at the bus stop. I love good news.

katarina // Posted 15 June 2008 at 11:07 am

Thank you, thank you, thank you! That was really heartening and inspiring.

Sophie // Posted 16 June 2008 at 11:28 am

Having had a very close friend whose family were failed asylum seekers, and who after suffering through the hellish uncertainty of the appeals process for seven months decided to leave voluntarily, with the help of a charity, rather than being forcibly removed and held in a detention center, this story really got to me. I agree that the typical media coverage of immigration is undeniably very one sided and stereotyped. I live in a working class, north eastern area of the country, the kind of area typically portrayed by the media as being predominantly white and working class and anti-immigration, yet I can’t think of a single person who wanted to see this family gone, or the several other families from the area who’ve also been deported in recent years.

I also think that immigration is definately a very feminist issue, whilst in their home country my friend’s mother had been raped, her younger sister kidnapped, and for a 16 year old girl to have to return to such a country, fully aware of the risks, especially to her because of her gender, is unimaginably terrifying. When they first returned there, my friend was not allowed to make contact with us for a month because of fears that the people who had threatened her family’s life prior to them fleeing the country, might find them once more.

So, immigration, definately something where I think that we need to see both sides of the story more often.

Naomi // Posted 18 June 2008 at 9:36 pm

I have worked with asylum seekers in Scotland for a couple of years now and it has been humbling, inspiring, shameful and depressing. Asylum is definitely treated differently in Scotland. You would never get a politician standing up in the Scottish Parliament giving a ‘send ’em home’ type speech, it would be political suicide (in marked contrast to Scottish Westminster MPs). You also have genuine community activism with white, working class people, often with a background in poverty campaigning, joining with asylum seekers.

Its not all rosy, of course racism exists, but there are those who have embraced the spirit of Martin Luther King who drew parallels between the problems of the black and white working class. It is politically convenient to pit communities against each other because while they fight over the scraps they are diverted from the true, structural reasons for their oppression.

I would also like to echo Sophie’s point about the gender issues involved in the asylum debate. The Refugee Convention was very much framed with consideration for those in positions of power and influence who are persecuted. There is an ongoing fight to get issues such as rape, female genital mutilation, persecution of prostitutes and ‘honour’ crimes to be considered a basis for claiming asylum. Not to mention the issues of disclosure, female asylum seekers being interviewed by male caseworkers, childcare etc.

When confronted with asylum seekers and their stories it is hard not to be thoroughly ashamed of this country. Humanity needs to be put back into this debate.

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds