A Scottish charity which supports asylum seekers has condemned a UK Borders Agency advertising campaign branding it ‘shameful and deeply offensive.’
Positive Action in Housing (PAiH) say a new poster campaign begun by the UK Borders Agency in Glasgow’s Brand Street where asylum seekers are required to ‘sign in’ often weekly, is racist and xenophobic.
Giant posters depict a destitute refugee and say “Is life here hard? Going home is simple”. On each chair in the waiting room, there are large stickers saying “Ask about going home”.
Said Robina Qureshi, Director of PAiH: ‘A similar London based poster campaign is being investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority. “Go Home” is a well-known racist taunt that has been used for decades in this country by fascists and racists against those of us from immigrant communities. That a government agency should decide to take up the same racist and xenophobic refrain while “processing” would-be refugees to this country, is shameful and deeply offensive.’
She added that claiming refuge is a human right. ‘The reality is that refugees coming into the UK are caught up in the incompetent bureaucratic mess that is the British asylum system – a system that in November 2012 failed to deal with its asylum backlog, and left more than 100,000 items of post relating to asylum cases unopened. Some of the asylum seekers concerned have been left in limbo for an average of seven years.
‘This campaign is designed to harass and wear down those from refugee communities and undermine the excellent anti-racist work already being done in Scotland. I would urge people to write to their MP and MSP to call for this hate campaign to be stopped now and to raise the matter in Parliament’
James Dornan SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart has condemned the UKBA campaign and asked Home Secretary Theresa May, to stop it immediately.
He said: ‘There is no room for this type of abhorrent xenophobic campaign which will only serve to make already vulnerable people feel unwelcome and fans the flames of racial bigotry.
‘We only have to look at the terrible events in the Middle East right now to see what ‘home’ can be like for some of these people. There are upwards of 1300 Syrian asylum seekers in the UK – some of them in Glasgow – does the Westminster Government really think it is appropriate to be telling people like them that it is “easy” to “go home”?
Mr Dornan has also lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament pointing out that the UKBA tactic only fans the flames of prejudice and demanding the Home Secretary end the scheme at once.
He added: The UKBA clearly has absolutely no idea how modern Scotland treats vulnerable people. I strongly condemn this poster campaign by the UKBA and urge them to reconsider this so-called pilot and remove their extreme tactics from Scotland.’
Margaret Wood of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees said: ‘Asylum seekers have a legal right to claim asylum. People come here to claim asylum after experiencing the most appalling circumstance. They are traumatised especially in Brand Street where they have to go through difficult and stressful experiences in the process of making their claim. It is absolutely disgraceful that UKBA has run their campaign there. It should not be allowed. The phrases used are reminiscent of a period when people were hounded. Everyone hoped that time had passed.’
A Home Office spokeswoman told this website: ‘The posters are being piloted at reporting centres in Hounslow and Glasgow. They do not use the wording ‘go home.’ Information on our voluntary returns scheme is available in all 15 reporting centres across the country.
She added: Those with no right to remain in the UK should leave voluntarily. These posters are designed to ensure people know that we can provide sensitive advice and assistance to help them return home with dignity. The Home Office will continue to work closely with community groups who welcome the opportunity for someone who is not here legally to leave the country of their own accord.’
John Wilkes, Chief Executive of Scottish Refugee Council, said: ‘We are very concerned about the appropriateness of new signage in the Home Office reporting centre in Glasgow.
‘When vans bearing the slogan ‘Go Home’ appeared in London we shared the widespread concerns of many MPs and the Deputy Prime Minister that such hostile and aggressive language risked inciting racial hatred in our communities. We were pleased that the Home Office saw sense and immediately withdrew this inappropriate campaign.
‘Now we hear reports that information displays promoting the message to ‘go home’ are being used in the Home Office reporting centre in Glasgow. We understand that these posters are part of a pilot project being trialled by the Home Office to promote and inform people of the support scheme provided by the UK Government for those people who voluntarily choose to return home.
‘However, voluntary return is just not an option for many refugees who are from war torn countries such as Syria, Iran and Eritrea as they would face certain persecution and real threat to their lives. One young asylum seeker burst into tears when he saw the message about going home and seeing family and friends again. He has no idea if his family are alive or dead.
‘Asylum seekers who report to the Home Office have the right to a fair and unbiased decision on their claim for protection and many will go on to be granted refugee status and protection in the UK. Using blunt communications to suggest that going home is ‘easy’ is insensitive and inappropriate and can send the wrong messages to people about whether their claim will be treated objectively and fairly. We urge the Home Office to take on board concerns about the appropriateness of the language and communication style being used.’
On the morning of Govan Fair 2012, an asylum seeker made homeless by Y people recently, was detained by the UK Borders Authority at its Govan office in Brand Street. He is scheduled to be deportation on Monday 11 June aboard a Qatar Airways flight to Dar es Sallam, Tanzania at 21.30 hours.
He is Ahmed Abdullah, a 27 year old Somalian man who has ‘made a significant contribution to his local community in Govan,’ say colleagues in Govan and Craigton Integration Network (GCIN) where he was a valued volunteer.
From a small island in the south of Somalia, he fled with his mother when he was aged 7 after soldiers shot his father. He lived precariously for most of his adolescence in different refugee camps and most of his family are dead. In 2005 an agent arranged a fake visa for him to come to the UK under a Tanzanian identity so that he could join his grandmother who was seeking asylum in the UK.
Volunteers at Unity Centre in Govan, which monitors and supports asylum seekers who are required to ‘sign in’ at UKBA in Brand Street at regular intervals, put out an appeal tonight (Friday 1 June 2012) for people to contact the Home Secretary, Theresa May, urgently, to ask for the forced removal flight to be stopped and for Ahmed to be returned to safety in Glasgow. They also ask supporters to contact Qatar Airways to ask them not to fly Ahmed.
Ahmed is the latest in an new wave of detentions at Brand Street. Theeparajh Thilliyampalam from Sri Lanka was due to be forcibly removed on Thursday 31 May to Colombo.
He and many of his family had been imprisoned and tortured and some murdered, by government forces. His partner disappeared in November and it is believed she has been kidnapped by government forces. His appeal for asylum was rejected because of lack of documentary evidence.
Joshua Odeke is currently in detention and is due to be forcibly removed from the UK to Nigeria on the June 7.
His life is in danger if he is returned to Nigeria because of his political roots, his Christian religion and the fact that he is homosexual. He is due to be removed on a Charter Flight number PVT090 to Lagos at 23.20.
Full details of how to protest at these forced removals is on Unity Website: www.unitycentreglasgow.org