A sizeable crowd protested outside Glasgow City Chambers today (Thursday 17 May) at the eviction of asylum seekers from their homes in the city, leaving them to sleep on the streets.
Councillors from all parties spoke out, just before they attended the first full Council meeting of the new administration.
One of at least six people left destitute is Ako from Kurdistan. He explained how he returned to his accommodation provided by Ypeople, to find the lock had been changed without any warning. ‘This was a most stressful and dangerous situation for me,’ said the human rights activist and journalist. ‘I can never forget this. It has destroyed me. It is important to press the system and the government because this should not happen again.’ He says he was lucky and got to sleep in a church hall which is being used as a temporary night shelter for destitute asylum seekers.
A few days later, after long negotiations with Ypeople, he was given a key to the new lock and allowed back into the flat where all his possessions were. Others are not so lucky and still wait for their personal things to be returned to them.
Margaret Wood of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees said: ‘Some of the most vulnerable should be eligible for help from the Social Work Department. It is indecent this is happening at all,’ she said. ‘We will continue to fight.’
A massive demonstration had been planned for Saturday 9 June but will be postponed as that is the day the Olympic torch is due to go through Glasgow. Said Margaret: ‘That is not a disaster. It gives us time to build and have a nationwide demonstration.’ She added: ‘We should be asking the serious question – is this the kind of society we want in Scotland? Do we want to provide a safe haven for people who have had to flee terrible treatment in their own country or do we want them to be treated like rubbish and dumped on the street? This has been a most disgraceful episode but we will fight on alongside the trade unions and the inspiring destitute asylum seekers themselves. We have to win for this society will not be worth living in until we do.’
With only days to go before voting for new local councillors (Thursday 3 May in case you’ve forgotten!) the campaigning seems slow in most places – unless you are actively involved. From the outside it is clear that knocking on doors and traditional hustings, while important, don’t make much of a dent in anyone’s thinking.
Lip service is being paid to the serious local concerns that citizens have. Personalisation is being sidelined expect by those who have to bear the brunt of sometimes as much as 50% of the care allowance they once had. Destitute asylum seekers don’t have a voice so prospective candidates can avoid that issue. It is a ‘no voter’. The cuts and how they impact on communities is only slowly being understoon. When the councillors are duly elected it will be too late to expect them to change their ways and keep election promises – not that anyone seems to be making any promises. Yes individuals are following their party’s line and reading the words from the script they have in their hand. But it is – for the most part – not being said from the heart. It will be a difficult choice for those who bother to vote, to work out how best to place their 1,2,3 and more numbers. And there will not be a result on Thursday night because counting won’t start till Friday morning. A simple hope is that enough people will actually go to their voting station and make their mark to make the results worthy of being called democratic.