The unregistered mass of refugees at Calais is ‘of Biblical proportions,’ said Michael Neuman, Director of Studies at Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) speaking in Glasgow tonight. He was supported by John Wilkes, Chief Executive of the Scottish Refugee Council .
Michael Neuman commended the humanitarian work being done, ‘mainly by volunteers.’ But admitted it took MSF a long time to realise the French Government was planning to do nothing about upwards of 6000 people gathered in Calais in the ‘new Jungle’ since March 2015.
He said the French in Calais were ‘worse than the Russians in Chechenya’ in the way they treated people. Part of the problem was the absence of any legal channel to Europe open to any of the refugees or migrants. With more than 4 million people having fled from Syria, almost 8 million displaced within Syria and an estimated 12 million needing humanitarian aid in that country, he said the vast majority of people in Calais were refugees. But because of the lack of any system of registration, people fell into a ‘refugee’ or ‘migrant’ trap.
‘This has been an uncomfortable experience and a deeply learning one for us at MSF,’ he said. He said MSF aimed to create a new camp. ‘People cannot continue to live in the mud. And those who have family in different countries across Europe don’t want to stay in Calais. They want to join their families.’
John Wilkes, agreed the refugee crisis in Europe was of ‘Biblical proportions.’ But pointed out the number of refugees was only 2% of the population of Europe. He said the lack of a co-ordinated response and countries not stepping up to the mark to do anything had exacerbated the situation. When asked about the Human Rights of children in particular, he said there was an international framework of legal commitments but Governments need to be challenged to implement them.
Fuad Alakbarov, a political activist who also addressed the packed meeting, said: ‘This is a crisis for humanity. It saddens me to see what is happening in Calais. It is an international disgrace.’ He and volunteers from Scotland Against Racism and the Scottish Campaign to Welcome Refugees, took aid to the camp at Calais. Among the many people they talked to was a 12 year old boy who had lost both parents crossing the Mediterranean. ‘He didn’t know what country he was in and didn’t know where to go.’
Fayrouz Kraish was one of the team who visited last year. ‘People are dying because the borders are closed,’ she said. A nine year old orphan whom she met on that visit has close relatives in the UK but he has not yet been granted leave to join them. ‘I plan to go out again soon to see what is happening to him,’ she told this website afterwards.
The information evening was organised by the Glasgow Centre for International Development (GCID) and the Glasgow Refugee, Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet) Professor John Briggs, Clerk of Senate at the University of Glasgow and Vice Principal, is convenor of GCID and Professor Alison Phipps, Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies at the University is Convenor of GRAMNet. They introduced the speakers and hosted the event in the Sir Charles Wilson lecture theatre.
Thursday 17 December 2015
Syrian refugees raised their voices in the Scottish Parliament today and got a fast reply from the First Minister. Within a couple of hours of two speakers requesting to meet First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to discuss issues they were concerned about, she said she’d be willing to hear them early in the new year.
More than 52 asylum seekers, refugees and local supporters of the group Uniting Nations in Scotland (UNIS), travelled from Glasgow to the presentation arranged by MSP Sandra White (Glasgow Kelvin).
UNIS is a charity organisation working closely with Police Scotland, BEMIS the ethnic minorities umbrella body, the British Red Cross, Findlay Memorial Church, Crossing Borders, Maryhill Integration Network, the International Women’s Group and the Inner Circle Men’s Group.
Two of the UNIS members gave speeches in the Scottish Parliament committee room. Feras Alzoubi – a father of three, who came with his family through the United Nations Vulnerable Person Relocation Scheme and Marwa Daher a 16 year old youth member of UNIS who arrived under the same scheme. Both praised the UK Government and the UN for helping them to be brought to safety. They also thanked the Scottish Government and local authorities for their warm welcome and the help they’d received from UNIS. But each touched on issues they felt needed more attention.
Said school girl Marwa Daher in excellent English: ‘We didn’t choose to leave Syria. But we had to. Danger had become our shadow.’ She was unable to attend school in Syria because of the war which claimed the life of her 15-year-old brother. She said she was quite happy in school in Scotland. But added: ‘I wish even more could be done for people like us to support us in our education. We still feel confused about the education system and other issues.’ She then asked to meet the First Minister to ‘share our experiences in order to resolve them and to make them better for the other children who are coming to the country.’
Electing to speak in Arabic, Feras Alzoubi said he was ‘re-born’ on the day he came to Glasgow.
After he and his family were left for dead in their home after hours of shooting, he escaped. ‘But my mother and brothers, unfortunately, are not protected by the UN Vulnerable Persons Scheme. They were left behind.’ He asked, therefore, for parents and other family members to be offered protection under the UN Scheme.
He was traumatised by his experience of being shot at and by the subsequent journey but – four months after arriving in Scotland – he is still waiting to see a consultant about his bullet wound injuries.
He added: ‘We know now that our children have a future here and we will contribute to building the economy of Scotland, but we ask the Scottish Government to recognise we Syrian refugees are people with a lot of experience and many skills. A programme to help us get into our previous types of work would be useful.’
Both speakers mentioned how helpful it had been to attend UNIS events to learn about Scottish culture, share their own culture and be informed by Police Scotland about the law in Scotland as they were anxious to stay on the right side of it.
UNIS leader and founder Mrs Ahlam Souidi launched a booklet ‘Celebrating Together’ containing the stories of many of the refugees who had been involved with UNIS and photographs of the social events held in conjunction with Police Scotland and other partners.
On her ‘to do’ list for the organisation are: setting up a Women’s Group which will address various issues including domestic violence; establishing training so that Syrian skills can be used effectively in Scotland; setting up a youth group.
Chief Inspector Alastair Muir of Police Scotland said there were many success stories to celebrate while police worked with asylum seekers and refugees. ‘But it takes time to integrate and then to trust,’ he said. ‘Police here don’t operate in the way police in other countries do. We don’t ‘do’ guns, for a start. We like to stress that New Scots are protected here. But it takes time to build relationships and for our message to get across that Police here will not tolerate intolerance – whether race, religion or domestic violence.’
The event at the Scottish Parliament was ably chaired by Mohamed Souidi who came to the UK at the age of one and speaks fluent Arabic, English and French. It was drawn to a close by Mr Alzoubi’s six year old son, Hamza, singing a Syrian song.
The remains of the six tower blocks on Red Road which were blown down on Sunday are now attracting tourists. Nicknamed – the Leaning Towers of Petershill – the two fragments of buildings still standing with ten or more floors intact, are being widely photographed.
Dr Helen Murray and her friend Catriona Fraser came from Aberdeen specially to see the mounds of rubble. From Glasgow originally, Helen said: ‘You knew you were home when you saw the Red Road flats on the horizon. My mother has asked me to bring her here to see the site even although she’s never been on this side of the city.’
The two friends have toured the country taking fun shots of different places and people – including tennis star Andy Murray.
Local residents in the Red Road exclusion area were – mostly – back to normal. Said Margaret Finlay, a family support worker at the Tron St Mary Church of Scotland on Red Road: ‘It was back to work on Monday. There wasn’t a lot of inconvenience.’ The Church’s community allotments had been covered with black tarpaulins to protect the vegetables and other plants from the dust. And the Sunday service had been held in Springburn Church along with that congregation.
Bonnybroom Nursery which was possibly the closest building to the demolition site, was open on Monday as usual. Glasgow City Council was asked by the head teacher to put out a tweet to that effect.
The senior citizens’ Alive and Kicking building on Red Road and the Family Centre next door were all still being cleaned up today (Thursday 15 October) before expecting to re-open soon.
Contractor Safedem is using high-reach machinery to dismantle 123 Petershill Drive. The work will involve weakening the steel frame enough to enable it to be brought down to ground level under controlled conditions. A safe exclusion zone within the site has been set up so that parts of the structure can be dismantled safely. The exclusion zone also includes a buffer zone for debris.
A GHA spokesman said: ‘Although two of the blocks did not fall exactly as predicted on Sunday, all blocks are now at a height that the demolition can be completed as planned. The contractor is now dismantling the remaining floors of the blocks. This work will be carried out under strict health and safety conditions and with minimum disruption to residents.’
While reports from various residents alluded to burst water pipes, broken locks, washing machines stopping working, no one spoken to had actually experienced any back lash from the major blow-down on Sunday.
The six blocks were built in the late 1960s. Designed by architect Sam Bunton, they cost £6 million. The cost of demolition has not been revealed by Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) which is part of the Wheatley Group and owns the iconic properties.
There was confusion tonight about the safety of residents in the area around the Red Road flats demolition site and whether or not they would be able to return home.
A BBC television broadcast said an emergency inspection was being carried out after two of the six tower blocks failed to come down completely. The remaining unsafe structures had to be examined and consideration was being given to having them ‘pushed over’ on Monday.
This unexpected setback cast doubts on whether local residents could return to their homes on Sunday. The television report said they should consult the GHA website. But that website did not give any information on what to do.
A GHA spokesman said: ‘The original plan for today’s demolition was that 10 floors of the blocks would remain for dismantling, post blowdown, by machine. However, this did not go completely to plan. Over the next few days the contractors, Safedem, will carry out a review to determine the best way of now completing the demolition.
“Residents began moving back into their homes shortly after 6pm, just over an hour later than originally planned.
“We sincerely apologise to everyone involved for this delay and any additional inconvenience caused.’
Later the GHA spokesman added: ‘Exclusion zone has been lifted, everyone is getting back into their homes tonight.’
All six of the infamous Red Road high flats were ‘blown down’ today but remnants of two of them remained after the explosion. Hours after the event, no one at Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) was able to comment on whether this was intended or not. Nor did the social landlord – part of the Wheatley Group – release the normal details of how much explosive was used, how many tonnes of rubble would be created etc.
One insider, however, said that the steel structure of the building was such that four times the normal amount of explosive would have been used and the two bits of building remaining standing would have been ‘not expected.’
And by early evening it was understood that hundreds of people were being advised to ‘look at the GHA website’ to see where they might spend the night if they were unable to return to their homes because of the unsafe, remaining structures.
An emergency inspection was believed to be underway as this story
is being written.
Local people in their hundreds stood at various vantage points for hours to wait for the massive implosion. They were well pleased. Cheers and a round of applause accompanied the massive cloud of dust which followed the collapse of the blocks. The dust spread over a very wide area.
Said trainee photographer Joe Graham: ‘That was quick!’ as he scrolled through his images.
Local resident Joan Flanagan said: ‘That was magic. I like big bangs and love to see things being destructed like that.’
Bobby Burns, also a local resident said: ‘That’s bitter sweet to see. It is one chapter of life closed now. But I suppose it opens a new one of re-generation for the area.’ He said he’d lived in two different tower blocks and commented: ‘They’ve both gone now. They were blown down too.’
The huge operation to clear the surrounding area of people began early on Sunday morning. ‘Two thousand five hundred people had to be moved,’ said one GHA official spokesman. ‘That takes time.’
Some resistance was expected from one householder – Tina Suffredini who chairs the local residents’ association. But when the time came, the GHA’s ‘plan B’ to have Sheriff Officers physically remove the lady from her property, was not required and she left her home of her own accord.
MSP Patricia Ferguson, who spent 11 years of her early girlhood in one of the Red Road flats said: ‘These needed to come down. I hope the new developments will bring job opportunities and community facilities and the GHA is consulting with local people to do that.’
The Govan Fair Association recently handed over a cheque for £200 to ‘We are Macmillan Cancer Support’ to help people living with cancer.
Though wheelchair bound, Linda Yates was the chief fund raiser for the Govan Fair Association. ‘I just did what I could to help,’ she said. This included sitting outside with a bucket on Govan Fair Day in June 2015 receiving money given by the crowd. On behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support, modern apprentice Calvin Lynch (17) was happy to receive the cheque for the formal ceremony in the Pearce Institute café in Govan which is run by Macmillan Cancer Support. Vice Chair Sandy Black, wearing the Govan Fair chain of office, officially represented the Association. He said: ‘The money given to Macmillan Cancer Support continues an ancient tradition of the Fair Association – to distribute any surplus from the Fair to those in need locally.’
A spokeswoman for the Macmillan support fundraising team which works upstairs in the Pearce Institute, said the money would be added to what the team raises for Macmillan work.
Later that day, Linda Yates was honoured by the Association – which has a tradition going back more than 300 years – and made a Life Member as was local Church of Scotland minister Moyna McGlynn. Said Chairman Lord James Stringfellow: ‘They have been given Life Membership out of gratitude for the support each has given the Govan Fair and the Govan Fair Association over the years.’
The Association has also ratified its 21st century working model as a company limited by guarantee with Charitable Status. Said Mr Stringfellow: ‘The whole process was managed by OSCR (the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator) who made sure all the legalities and constitutional procedures have been adhered to. We are now on a modern footing and the Govan Fair is protected for the people of Govan for the next 300 years. The current committee are the custodians of huge tradition and we take that role very seriously.’
Later that day, the Govan Fair Association re-elected their committee at a re-called annual general meeting. Solicitor John Flanagan reassured everyone that the legalities of becoming a company limited by guarantee with Charitable Status had been done correctly. He explained that this was to protect the people taking the responsibilities of the Association and was a normal process today. Chairman Lord James Stringfellow also moved an amendment to the standing orders to emphasis that the Govan Fair belongs to the people of Govan and those who are the custodians of the Association and formal supporters of it, are committed to that objective.
Champion boxer Amir Khan distributed Eid toys to young patients in the recently opened Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow today (Tuesday 7 July 205). ‘An amazing hospital and staff,’ tweeted the current Silver Welterweight title holder later.
Channelled through the charity Colours of Islam, the gifts celebrate Eid, the religious holiday Muslims observe at the end of Ramadan, the fasting month when it is customary to give to charity and to support good causes.
Kirsten Sinclair, Director of Fundraising at Yorkhill Children’s Charity said: ‘We have a longstanding relationship with Colours of Islam and would like to thank them for the smiles and laughter they bring to our young patients at Eid every year.’
Refana Saleem from Colours of Islam said: ‘We are thrilled to have worked in association with the Amir Khan Foundation in visiting the newly opened hospital. And we are delighted the children can enjoy their new toys. We would also like to thank all our dedicated supporters, sponsors and volunteers for all their work over the years.’
On a tour of the UK during Ramadan, Amir was guest at a charity dinner last night in Glasgow which raised funds for good causes including the Amir Khan Foundation. He tweeted: ‘Amazing ifthar dinner in Glasgow. So much love and generosity shown by the Scottish people for the AK Foundation.’
Twice world champion, Amir has fought at lightweight, light welterweight, and welterweight. He is the youngest British Olympic boxing medallist, having won silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics, aged 17.
The Yorkhill Children’s Charity has funded more than £5m in equipment and service delivery at the new hospital including a £1m interactive play area which is the first of its kind in Europe.
Services transferred from the old Yorkhill Hospital to the Royal Hospital for Children at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow last month.
‘Things are getting worse.’ That was the comment from Glasgow Girl, Amal Azzudin at the end of a celebration to mark ten years since she and school friends at Drumchapel High School lobbied to prevent one of them – from an asylum seeking family – from being deported. Their campaign was successful. But the seven Glasgow Girls had to continue to fight against other asylum seeking families being deported. Their story was subsequently made into TV documentaries and a stage musical.
The Celebration in the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) on Sunday 14 June 2015, was part of Refugee Festival Scotland. It marked ten years since the Glasgow Girls hit the headlines and 30 years of the work of the Scottish Refugee Council.
An exhilarating live performance of songs from Cora Bissett’s musical was given by some of the original cast of the play and volunteer singers.
The BBC documentaries ‘Tales from the Edge,’ and ‘The Children Who Disappear’ telling of the Glasgow Girls’ campaign, were to have been screened at the event. But for reasons of copyright and cost, they were not shown. However, both films are freely available online.
While school girls, the Glasgow Girls’ fought to keep their friend, Agnesa in Scotland. Subsequently, they publicly shamed the then, Scottish Government’s First Minister, Jack McConnell. He had promised a ‘protocol’ so that dawn raids would not happen again in Scotland but failed to deliver it. They asked him ‘When will you keep your promise?’ when they collected an award for the best political campaign at a major political awards ceremony.
Said Amal, who is now working in the community mental health field: ‘Today we have got to have good representation at Westminster and see how much influence they have. There has to be a fairer system. That is the only way to make a difference. Westminster has to re-think this.’
Roza Salih, another of the Glasgow Girls who is now an Equality and Diversity staffer at the University of Strathclyde’s Students’ Association, said: ‘There also needs to be a change in public attitude. I think that teachers could play a key role in educating children. After all, they are role models for young people.’
Margaret Wood, co-chair of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees commented: ‘The Government’s attitude to the rights of migrants and asylum seekers is getting worse. They are being used as scapegoats in an attempt to divide people as austerity bites. Britain has signed up to international laws supporting people’s rights to seek asylum and rights for migrant workers. Yet, again, people in Scotland – peaceably and politely – will have to make life as difficult as possible for those in Government, remind them of that fact and keep them to the letter and the spirit of those laws. We haven’t signed up to their racist agenda.’
She added: ‘People who are claiming asylum in the UK are still being deported. Dawn raids still happen. The first thing the Prime Minister, David Cameron and the Home Secretary , Theresa May, did after the election this year, was – go on a dawn raid.’
The funeral of Sheku Bayoh – the black, Kirkcaldy, man who died in Scottish Police custody on Sunday 3 May – will take place on Sunday 7 June in Kirkcaldy.
His family invite those who knew him and those who support their search for justice for him, to the funeral. The funeral procession will start at 12 noon from Hayfield Road, Kirkcaldy where he died. This is the street where an alleged incident of a man brandishing a machete brought nine police officers to the scene. From there the procession will march to Kirkcaldy Police Office and then to the local Mosque for prayers and tributes. Sheku will be laid to rest in Dysart Muslim cemetery.
At a funeral reception afterwards well-wishers will be allowed to give their tributes and share their good memories of Sheku who was 31 and had lived in Kirkcaldy since he was 17. He was born in Sierra Leone, moved to London aged 11 then went to Kirkcaldy to join his sister who lives there and works as a nurse.
His family invite friends to the funeral and the reception as they wish support on the day and for their campaign to seek the truth of what actually happened and fight for justice of Sheku. Ade Johnson, Sheku’s brother-in-law is the contact point for further information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sheku was working for British Gas and training to be an engineer. He and his partner have two sons, Tyler aged 3 and Isaac aged 4 months.
A family statement said: ‘Sheku Bayoh came into contact with Police Scotland officers from Kirkcaldy Police Station on Sunday 3 May 2015. He did not leave police custody alive. The family wants to know the truth of what happened and are appealing to members of the public to come forward to tell them what they saw at Hayfield Road, Kirkcaldy. Sheku was only 31 years old when he was suddenly and cruelly taken from us. We are all devastated and still in shock. Our loss is great.’
Protesters, wanting to shut down Dungavel Immigration Detention Centre near Strathaven, will descend on the prison on Saturday 30 May.
Organised by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) the demonstration is supported by the Church of Scotland, the Catholic Church, the Muslim Council of Britain, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, and community activists from across Scotland.
A recent STUC motion said: ‘Detention is a blight on our asylum system. People being held indefinitely in Dungavel have committed no crime.’ The UK is the only European country which has no limit on the time permitted to detain people seeking sanctuary.
According to the BBC in January, 185 people were detained in Dungavel. Two had been there for more than a year while 32 had been there for more than six months and a further nine for more than three months. Children are not supposed to be detained in Dungavel but fears were expressed at a meeting in Glasgow a few days before the demonstration, that they were being held there before being send to detention centres in England.
Church and human rights authorities have been refused permission by Home Secretary, Theresa May, to visit the prison to see if reports of people detained there being on hunger strike over the conditions and over their unlimited detention, were true.
Speakers at the rally are expected to include Glasgow Girl Amal Azzudin who, as a school girl, along with her peers, challenged the removal of one of their class mates whose family was seeking asylum. Their challenge was successful and the story of their fight was later made into a successful stage musical.
A former home of the Dukes of Hamilton, the Dungavel property is run by the Home Office via a £25million, 5 year contract with GEO, part of the company which runs Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre and private jails in the United States.
For more information and to book a place on the bus: www. stuc.org.uk/dungavel #ShutDunga