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 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.
The food co-operative at the University of Glasgow is well under way for this semester. Every second Friday from 3.30pm till 5.30pm they hand over the pre-paid vegetables ordered online. Today – Friday 13 February 2015- the people on duty in the foyer of the Queen Margaret Union were (from left) Ambi, Eva and Grace who is showing the new Food Co-op bags which can be purchased for £3. They have been hand-printed by Esme Armour at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and are made of bamboo. For more information go to: www.glasgowunifoodcoop.com
A packed auditorium at Oran Mor had the YES campaigners on their feet after a rousing evening of fine music from musicians such as Dick Gaughan, Mary Ann Kennedy, Shooglenifty, Kathleen MacInnes and Eilidh MacKenzie – to name fewer than half of the artistes who donated their time and talents.
Billed as Songs for Scotland and produced by Kevin Brown, it was fronted by Alan Bissett who had some great ‘light bulb’ jokes to illuminate the proceedings with much laughter.
Under the magnificant ceiling art work by Alasdair Gray and the banner reading: ‘Let us flourish by telling the truth’ world class musicians rooted in Scottish and Gaelic culture played for almost four hours. From Gaelic hip-hop (Up-Ap) from finely dressed Griogair and DJ Dolphin Boy, to the MacKenzie clan from Lewis, the audience was in tune to the upbeat mood. Countryside ranger Adam Ross’s catchy ‘ I can’t dance to this music anymore’ had everyone clapping along and echoing the sentiment.
The entire cast of musicians crowded the platform at the end to sing SAORSA – Freedom for All – by Ailean Domhnullach. And as Mike Small, Editor of Bella Caledonia said in his introduction: ‘For this one evening let the lyrics of hope replace the voices of doom. Let the pibroch replace the pollsters.’ There was no doubting the hope of everyone was: ‘We will win!’
This was gently framed with a reminder to stay friends and remain civil with everyone.
Lorne Brown, an 82-year-old retired newspaper design and layout expert, plans to abseil from the Titan Crane at Clydebank on Saturday 14 June 2014.
A renowned piper, he is doing this in aid of research into Vasculitis. The condition is a dangerous inflammation of the blood vessels. This can result in irreversible damage to organs and even death. Lorne was struck down by Vasculitis and not expected to recover. However, he has regained a remarkable degree of health and has even re-started his Munro ‘bagging’ plan.
Recently, he gave a short talk on the history of the bagpipes to international students at Wellington Church INTERNATIONAL WELCOME CLUB and encouraged volunteers to try playing a tune – more difficult than it looks.
Donations are welcome: www.justgiving.com/Lorneabseil
in aid of research into Vasculitis by the Lauren Currie Twilight Foundation
An explosive launch to the Commonwealth Games has brought more fireworks with it.
The Red Road tower blocks in Sighthill will be demolished LIVE during the opening ceremony and seen by 1.5 billion people around the world. Those in Celtic Park, where the opening ceremony will take place, will see the blow-down on the enormous 100 metre-wide screen which will occupy the entire south stand.
Eileen Gallagher Chair of the Ceremonies, Culture and the Queen’s Baton Relay Committee: ‘By sharing the final moments of the Red Road flats with the world as part of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, Glasgow is proving it is a city that is proud of its history but doesn’t stand still. Glasgow’s story is always one of its people; their tenacity, their genuine warmth, their ambitions. Marking the end of Red Road is very much a celebration of all of those things.’
Commented Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council: ‘The opening ceremony will be a ceremony like no other, showcasing our city’s unique style and personality and with our people and communities at its very heart. We are going to wow the world, with the demolition of the Red Road flats set to play a starring role. Their demolition will all but mark the end of high-rise living in the area and is symbolic of the changing face of Glasgow, not least in terms of our preparations for the Games.’
Gordon Sloan, Chairman of Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) said: ‘The Red Road flats were very popular in their day and hold a special place in many people’s hearts. But they are no longer viable as modern homes and GHA made the decision to demolish them as part of the wider regeneration of the North of Glasgow. We will bring them down in strictly controlled conditions with the expertise of our contractor Safedem, during the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.’
David Zolkwer, Head of Ceremonies & Artistic Director for Glasgow 2014 said: ‘By sharing the blow-down with the rest of the world, I hope it will be seen as the noble, respectful and celebratory send-off that it is intended to be.’
Shona Robison, Minister for the Commonwealth Games said: ‘This spectacular start to the Games within the opening ceremony will send a strong signal about the power of the Commonwealth Games. For many people, these Games are more than sport. They are the chance for regeneration, renewal and having better places to live and work.’
But Neil Baxter, secretary of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, said: ‘It’s the oddest thing. They will knock down five blocks but leave one which houses asylum seekers. What does that say?’
The Red Road flats were ‘a place of despair’ and should never have been built, said Robina Qureshi, Director of the charity Positive Action in Housing (PAiH) ‘Through our work we have regularly visited refugee and asylum seeker families and seen the misery for everyone. This is where the Sehryk family committed suicide from the balcony of their 15th floor flat on the day they were to be made destitute by the UK Borders Agency. The windows all had so-called suicide prevention netting but they managed to tear it away. Those flats were not meant for human beings, they were just great big filing cabinets of humans living in misery or despair.
‘Before the demolition programme the Council tried to market them to university students, then professionals, but it didn’t work. No one wanted to stay there. And I guess that’s how the planners wanted it.
‘Then thousands of asylum seekers came in from war torn countries like Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan in 2001 as part of a five year contract between the Council and the Home Office. They had no choice in housing. Red Road was one of the places where they were effectively dumped out of the way while Glasgow City Council collected the council tax payments and rent from Westminster.
‘What is ironic is that the Commonwealth Committee in Glasgow denied asylum seekers the right to volunteer for the games.’
She went on: ‘For the Olympic games, they light a torch. Here in Glasgow, they celebrate the start of the Commonwealth Games by blowing up the Red Road flats. It is highly insensitive and jars with the senses.
‘Sports men and women in the Commonwealth Games may well be claiming asylum here because of the threat of torture or denial of certain freedoms in their own countries. The Commonwealth Committee clearly thinks it’s a great idea to blow up the high flats but has no concept of the misery the Red Road flats caused to thousands of people from Glasgow and across the world. No change there then.’
There is sweet music coming from Govanhill Baths.
A baby grand piano is now in the foyer thanks to Play me I’m Yours charity and GBart – the Baths’ own art group. And it will be played soon – on Wednesday 12 February at 7.30pm – by Dave Anderson, Louise Cairns, Aislin Quinn, Tom Urie, Peter Shand and others. Donation at the door to hear them make music on this dream instrument which will remain indefinitely in the building.
This is just one event in a year of celebration. The foundation stone was laid in 1914 and the place opened three years later.
The Toddlers’ /Training pool is being refurbished and is expected to be ready for use by Monday 24 February for the ‘Wee Splash.’ At that point, the dream of many people in Govanhill to ‘swim again in Govanhill Baths’ will come true – to one third of the way.
The other two pools will take a bit longer to come into use again. But in time, through a three phase, development, programme, they too will be available and everyone will be able to ‘swim again’ in what will be a Wellbeing Centre. The Centre is being shaped within the Edwardian Baths which were closed more than ten years ago by Glasgow City Council to the great surprise and anger of the local community.
Since then, a vocal and active group of people has championed the re-opening of the place as a health and well-being centre. And that is happening. Formed as a Trust and as Friends of the Govanhill Baths the supporters have appointed an administrator – Jim Monaghan – and promoted a programme of events to encourage more and more people to come in and see how the plans are developing and the space is being used. So drop in on Wednesday 12 February at 7.30pm and hear for yourself the new sounds coming from the Govanhill Baths.