Abir Kopty, a Palestinian from Nazareth, told members of Glasgow University Palestine Society: ‘When I speak to people like you, I feel hope.’
One of 6 million Palestinian refugees she explained: ‘I’m 48. My land was taken. My village destroyed. I’m one of 11 million Palestinian people who face apartheid daily.’
In the course of an eloquent review of the issue and a neat summary of the present situation she said: ‘We have lost faith in the negotiating table.’
As she travelled to Glasgow to speak during the Society’s Israel-Apartheid Week, she learned of the death of Arafat Jaradat, a campaigner who died in prison of injuries inflicted while he was there according to a post mortem.
‘He was arrested by the occupying Israeli occupation forces accused of throwing stones. Such things are designed to crush us. But we will continue to resist. Children are in jail, women and men are being killed. These things happen with impunity. The silence of the world is noticeable.’
But, she added: ‘There is a lot of frustration and anger. Palestinians question the effectiveness of the sacrifice. Will such sacrifices lead to change?’
She answered her own question by saying it is leading to stronger resistence.
The village of Alaragrib which has been demolished 45 times, keeps being rebuilt by local people.
‘We know we cannot rely on governments. But we can rely on people of conscience – like those attending this meeting.’
She continued: ‘Everything you do; everything that people like you do around the world puts pressure on Israel. We are willing to pay the price but that is not effective without your action.’
Chair of the Society, Kate Connelly, invited those interested to contact the group which organises visits to Palestine. ‘These are not tourist trips. They offer a really broad view of what life is like there.’ Anyone interested was invited to check out the Society’s Facebook pages.
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, leader of Catholics in Glasgow, today called for an end to the ‘human rights scandal’ which forces asylum seekers into destitution.
He said as he signed a public petition against such forced destitution: ‘I’m sorry we have to make such efforts. They are only necessary due to the inhumane situation that is manifesting itself on our doorstep.’
When a person’s claim for asylum is refused, their accommodation and weekly allowance of around £70 is stopped. They are left homeless and with no money to feed or clothe themselves. They are forbidden to work at any time during the asylum seeking process.
Right now, Dje Bruno Masahi, is in that situation. He fled from the Ivory Coast almost two years ago when his life as a politician in the opposition party was under threat. In an emotional account of his day-to-day struggle to survive on the streets of Glasgow he said: ‘I fled my country looking for protection because my life was in danger. I did not get protection and now it is becoming increasingly difficult to survive.
‘It’s not just me – asylum seekers across Scotland are suffering. Something needs to be done about this situation.’
Recent research by Caledonian University showed that hundreds of people are made destitute by the UK Government’s policy. Some couch surf with friends. But another asylum seeker whose case is in process, can find their case is put in jeopardy if they house a destitute friend.
The night shelter for destitute asylum seekers in Glasgow is usually full. And the City Mission’s rough sleepers’ shelter – which has just opened for the winter – is expected to allow destitute asylum seekers in now, too. It is aimed at people who live rough on the streets of Glasgow.
Said Archbishop Tartaglia, who is also President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland: ‘This Christmas, I have a particular concern for people in our own backyard who may be forced to shelter under a bridge in freezing conditions, in a doorway or on a cold floor – because they have been made compulsorily destitute.’
He has put out an appeal to those ‘in positions of civil authority’ to ease this suffering by allowing people the ‘basic human requirements of shelter and sustenance.’
Gary Christie, Head of Policy at the Scottish Refugee Council, said: ‘We are calling on the UK Government to provide basic support to all asylum seekers until they are given the right to remain here or until they leave this country.’
Eileen Baxendale, Chair of Refugee Survival Trust said: ‘It is unacceptable to leave people hungry and homeless on the streets of our cities.’
Almost 1500 people have signed the Stop Destitution petition in postcard format which the Archbishop signed. The postcards will be sent to the UK Immigration Minister, Mark Harper, Conservative MP for the Forest of Dean. He took over from Damian Green MP in September. More than 20 organisations have also pledged support including, Amnesty International, Shelter and the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland.
Details of what people can do to stop enforced destitution can be found on the website: www.stopdestitution.org.uk under LEARN. And the petition is there for those who wish to sign it. Caledonian University’s full survey and a summary, are also online there.
Alex Glass, who has been the Labour Party representative in Greater Pollok for 13 years, but is not standing again in the local government election this week, told this website: ‘I had the pleasure of joining some parents, children and teachers at St Angela’s RC Primary School in Darnley on Friday 27 April, to perform one of my very last duties as a councillor – a litter pick-up.’
In the near future, the school will receive an important visit from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education(HMIE). To ensure that the inspection team gets the best impression of the school, everyone, including outgoing Councillor Glass, was in the grounds picking up bags and bags of litter. Head Teacher, Brendan Duffy said: ‘The School’s Council has been fighting hard over the past few years to show the pride they have in St Angela’s by encouraging other parents to join the clean-up of the school grounds. We have also involved the children. The long term message appears to be getting through to them about keeping the school and the wider community clean by putting litter in the bin and not dropping it in the school grounds or on the street.’
The clean-up was organised by Tom Buik, Chair of the School’s Council who said: ‘We have a good community spirit in the school now. We want the inspectors from HMIE to see the pride we take in St Angela’s by noticing how tidy the school grounds are as they arrive to carry out their inspection.’
The school has not been without its problems as Councillor Glass knows. He said: ‘Recently, teachers were having to place buckets under the constant drips of water coming from the roof. Fortunately, I was able to draw attention to the urgent nature of the repairs and work was completed relatively quickly.’
St Angela’s has been in the news over the past couple of years due to the change in the catchment area for St Ninian’s which is outside Glasgow but has had a long standing arrangement to take children from the Darnley area.
Recently, too, the school expanded to accommodate the growing number of children wishing to attend St Angela’s. Two additional classrooms are now located in portacabins in the playground. Commented Tom: ‘Hopefully the inspection will go well for everyone at St Angela’s. With this level of support from parents, children and teachers as well as our local councillor, it looks like the school is taking on all the challenges that it faces by getting everyone involved.’