Love Music Hate Racism is celebrating years of inspiring people to love their neighbour with an exhibition of poster showing some of the great Rock Against Racism gigs where their message was sung out to the world.
The vintage posters will be on view till 30 April in the Platform library in Easterhouse. There, Glasgow leaders in the fight against fascism, launched the exhibition in proper style – with music from the Honest Mistakes. Among the songs sung by the trio of Brian Gibson, Chris Reilly and Steve Dollan, was the famous Italian anti-fascist song :Bella Ciao.’ Their rendition was followed by a photographer spontaneously singing it in Chinese!
‘That could only happen in group like this,’ said doyen Margaret Wood who has been at the forefront of the fight against race hatred for many years.
She told the gathering: ‘Sadly this fight has to go on. So it is really good that school children today will be coming to see this exhibition and to have workshops about what it all means. The rich people who run our society are our enemy, not our neighbours.’
Making his first public speech as chairman of United Against Fascism Scotland, John McFadden of the Fire Brigade Union said: ‘There was never a better time to have this exhibition. We are in the middle of a severe economic crisis and the same issues are being raised. It is disgraceful for the Prime Minister to be saying things like: -’ we must guard against people from afar because they are stealing our welfare.’ Let us not fall into the trap of making migrants and other incomers, scapegoats. We have to support and celebrate our multi-cultural society and promote peace, love and tolerance. Those are the qualities that will stop the hatred and poison that comes from the right wing fascists. And we need to be aware that such a hate filled movement is growing in Europe and here.’
Dave Sherry of UNITE union’s Housing Association branch – one of the sponsors of the exhibition- remembered the excitement of a Rock Against Racism event in London in 1978. ‘Elvis Costello could only get to the stage by helicopter because of the huge mass of people. It was really electrifying and terrifying too, but it got the message out. And we must keep doing that,’ he said.
Amal Azzudin and Emma Clifford, who were two of the seven Glasgow school girls who challenged the authorities when one of their classmates was whipped away in a dawn raid on the asylum seeking family in 2005, also attended the exhibition launch. Said Emma, who now works for the BBC and Sunny Govan Radio: ‘I’m glad the exhibition involves schoolkids in workshops. And that it is travelling around the country.’ Added Amal, who is working for the Mental Health Foundation: ‘Music is such a great medium to use to raise awareness. The Big Names involved in Rock Against Racism get the message to a wider audience.’
Noreen Real and Jean Donnachie who were honoured by the Evening Times for their fight to protect asylum seekers from dawn raids in their tower block, were at the Easterhouse launch too. Both poudly wearing the silver lapel pin from the Evening Times 25th Women of the Year anniversary, they enjoyed the evening and Jean even joined the musicians in a song. ‘I want everyone to go and see the stage version of the Glasgow Girls when it comes back to Glasgow,’ she said. Then launched into the song that the character in the musical – portraying her – sings. ‘ These are my weans now.’ These two remarkable pensioners and the seven schoolgirls are all current examples of people fighting racism.
‘That’s why we need to keep supporting Love Music Hate Racism, Rock Against Racism and find all the best ways to combat fascism,’ said Margaret Wood. ‘It is still out there and a threat to us all.’
Some asylum seekers may be saved from destitution if a legal challenge, started on Wednesday 17 October at Glasgow Sheriff Court, wins.
Formal ‘Notices to Quit’ had been issued by Ypeople to around 32 individuals as the first step to evicting them. But out of the 18 cases heard on Wednesday 17 October, almost half were challenged on human rights grounds. The legal arguments are scheduled to be heard in court before Christmas.
The United Kingdom Borders Authority (UKBA) which has the responsibility for housing those who seek sanctuary in this country, has changed housing provider in Scotland from Ypeople to the global company SERCO. To re-possess some of the flats where asylum seekers are housed, Ypeople has to evict their tenants. It is estimated 100 people may be affected.
The arguments heard by Sheriff Ritchie, included the contention that the Home Secretary has a legal obligation to house asylum seekers and that the housing provider is under contract to do that on his behalf.
Those tenants who had a defence lawyer will have their cases heard in coming weeks. Around ten people who did not have a defence lawyer will now be scheduled for eviction as their cases were unchallenged. They will soon be left living and sleeping on the streets of Glasgow without any means of support. Almost all people seeking sanctuary are strictly prohibited from working by UKBA.
A group of around 20 supporters demonstrated outside the Court before the cases were heard. Most of them sat in the court room to listen to the legal debates. But the microphones were not used by the lawyers or the Sheriff so very little of the legal argument was actually heard publicly. And supporters in court were told to stop taking notes.
Afterwards a spokesperson for the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees said: ‘I’m sorry not all the people whose case was called today, were represented. They will probably be evicted. Margaret Wood of the Campaign added: ‘Now we can build up test cases through the court system and challenge the legality of evicting asylum seekers.’
Some of the Advocates appearing for the defence were doing so without charging a fee.
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.’
Words and Photograph by Stuart Maxwell
Anger is mounting in Glasgow after the UK Government terminated a contract for Glasgow City Council (GCC) to house asylum seekers.
Around one hundred asylum seekers turned out to protest outside Glasgow City Chambers on Monday 15 October. With banners raised they listened as politicians and campaigners railed against the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA).
The UKBA terminated the £10 million annual contract with GCC on Friday 5 November, resulting in 1300 asylum seekers having to be re-homed. So far, hundreds have already received letters from the UKBA warning them of imminent removal. It is yet unclear where or when this group of people will go.
The protest in George Square was arranged by the asylum seekers’ union, Unity, and the Campaign to Welcome Asylum Seekers. MSP Sandra White addressed the crowd of several hundred: ‘This decision is an absolute disgrace. These letters are an absolute disgrace. The Government in Westminister is scared of Glasgow’s successful, integrated society.
‘This decision will decimate communities and it will decimate the education of many children.’
Sandra showed a letter from an asylum seeker who has received warning from the UKBA of imminent removal. The man remains anonymous because, he said: ‘I am scared now that my interview is published, Home Office can take serious action against me and can threat me (sic).’
He writes: ‘We families are shocked to know that (this removal will take place), because our children are studying in schools and we parents are studying in colleges. We have to change our children’s school and they are not happy to leave their friends and teachers. We have to change our doctor and all neighbours which we integrated (with) for many years. I have more than 20 families with me to protest against this decision and I know many more.’
Margaret Woods from the Campaign to Welcome Refugees, said: ‘The Tory Government wants to break up communities in Glasgow. They’ve picked this as one of their first fights. They’ve picked it with us and we’ve been fighting for a long time. We know how to defend our communities.’
Councillor James Dornan addressed the crowd: ‘In Glasgow we look after our own’. He pointed his finger at the crowd. ‘You are our own and we’re going to look after you.’
In response to the anger stirred, UKBA’s Scottish Regional Director Phil Taylor said: ‘Letters have been sent to all asylum seekers currently housed by Glasgow City Council, explaining what could happen if they are required to move accommodation and further communication is planned to keep asylum seekers advised of future developments.
‘We are very hopeful that the majority of the asylum seekers affected by this change of contract will remain in their current accommodation. If a move to new accommodation is required we will aim to give at least 14 days notice, where possible, and the costs of the move will fall to the new accommodation provider and not to the asylum seekers themselves.’
The next stage for the protest is Brand Street, Govan, the UKBA Glasgow Headquarters, on Saturday 20 November at 11am. Here asylum seekers intend to throw their letters from UKBA onto a bonfire.
Further down the page on the letter from the asylum seeker to MSP Sandra White the writer said: ‘Can you please look into this matter deeply. We are not cattle.’