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
It was a different start to the week on Monday 21 November.
Despite three people chaining themselves to the entrance gate and one man sitting 20ft up on a tripod at the UK Border Agency premises in Brand Street, Govan, The Home Office said: ‘business is still carrying on.’
All the protesters were highlighting the fact that the UK BA has re-started dawn raids to forcibly remove failed asylum seekers. The demonstration was to ensure that the gates of UK BA remained closed until the end of the working day preventing the vans used to transport people, from coming in or out.
On Monday when this all happened, asylum seekers due to report at the Brand Street office, were escorted into the grounds by a police officer – once they’d negotiated a way through the cordon of 30+ police who sealed off surrounding streets with ‘accident’ signs, incident tape and police vehicles. An ever evolving crowd of around 60 protesters at any one time watched and waited to see how long it would take the police to get the man down from his perch.
Police Inspector Cowley was in charge at the location and said: ‘We’re handling the incident as normal and will monitor till removal.’
It took several attempts for the police support team to build a tubular platform from which they would have the tricky task of extracting the man. His dawn to dust vigil ended voluntarily when he descended by himself after 5pm when the UKBA offices were due to close. He was arrested, taken to Govan Police Office at Helen Street and detained for three hours and given a medical examination. Strathclyde Police also stated that a man aged 23 and one aged 18 and a woman aged 32 were arrested after they had voluntarily freed themselves from where they’d chained themselves to the fence.
During the day, the supportive crowd spasmodically broke into songs and chants to keep the spirits of the man on the tripod as high as his elevated position.
Asylum seeker Amadou Diallo from Guinea, took time off from a college course to stand in protest at dawn raids. With his poster reading in English and Gaelic: Justice, Freedom, Unity, he said: ‘People have to understand, where there is no democracy in a country, a person’s life is in danger if they are returned.’
Shelly Davidson is a failed asylum seeker who has been in Scotland so many years she says she is Scottish. She sang some powerful songs praying for God to come and help. ‘Don’t turn away,’ said the words in her first language. ‘We don’t want kids and mothers to be put in detention and deported because we fear it could be us next,’ she said.
Claire Mulholland was one of a group of banner carrying women from the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission. She said: ‘It is an outrage they are carrying out dawn roads. These women and children are not criminals. They will be traumatised for the rest of their lives after being hauled out their beds by strangers who have burst into their homes. And this is supposed to be a civilised country!’
A Home Office spokesperson later said: ‘We consider all cases thoroughly. When both we and the courts agree that families are not in need of our protection, they are given every chance to leave the UK voluntarily. This includes engagement with the family over a period of time, family conferences to offer tailored voluntary return packages to assist them upon their return and self-check-in opportunities to fly home. Unfortunately, when they refuse to take up these opportunities, our last resort is an enforced return. This is overseen by the Family Returns Panel to ensure that the welfare of children is taken properly into account.’
A statement from the Unity Centre, which is near Brand Street and is a volunteer run solidarity centre for asylum seekers and destitute asylum seekers, said: ‘The blockade at Brand Street is a response to the return of the bad old days of dawn raids in Glasgow and the continued practice of detaining children.’ Unity went on to say that the practice of visiting people’s homes in the early morning to surprise them – dawn raids – was a particularly ‘barbaric and inhumane way to enforce Home Office policy.’ They added: ‘This has been the source of anger from communities in Glasgow in the past. We have given the Home Office every chance to end this abhorrent treatment of families, voluntarily. Unfortunately, they have refused these opportunities and our last resort is direct action.’
Last year, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described the detaining of children as ‘shameful’ and pledged to end the practice by May 2011. However, the Government’s new family returns programme permits children to be lock up at the UKBA’s Cedars pre-departure accommodation near Gatwick Airport. That is where Funke Olubiyi and her five year old son Joseph were taken after a dawn raid on their home in Govan on Thursday 10 November before being removed to Nigeria which Joseph has no memory of. UKBA officials entered the family’s home at 7am. Funke was handcuffed and both were taken to Brand Street where Joseph was allowed to have breakfast before being taken by van to Cedars in England. There they remained for several days before being put on a plane to Nigeria.
The protest at the UKBA’s Brand street building was organised by Unity and No Borders Network which champions freedom of movement for all and an end to all migration controls.
Within days of telling a conference in Glasgow that the UK Borders Agency was ‘more compassionate with a new family returns process that was fair,’ the Director of Asylum at UKBA, Emma Churchill, was proven wrong.
A 7am raid by seven officers of the Agency broke down single mother Funke Olubiyi’s door as her five-year-old son, Joseph, slept and she was undressing to step into a bath.
The mother and child were removed from their flat in Govan, taken to nearby Brand Street where, eventually, the child was allowed to have something to eat. Then the family was taken by road to the Agency’s new family detention centre ‘Cedars’ in the village of Pease Pottage close to Crawley in Sussex. They are believed to be the first family from Scotland to be taken there. That was ‘home’ for three days and nights as last minute attempts were made to get an injunction on medical grounds.
Speaking from Nigeria, Funke described how nine immigration officials, guards and a doctor accompanied the little family aboard a plane which took them back to Nigeria. According to UNITY, a volunteer network of asylum seekers and friends, Funke said she was OK and staying with friends. She thanked everyone who had tried to fight for her.
A day earlier the UKBA had detained another single mother and her baby during a dawn raid but she managed to convince the immigration officials to release her after being held at Brand Street for more than seven hours.
Said a spokesman at UNITY: ‘These two raids mark the return of dawn raids to Glasgow following a period of several years when the UKBA had almost totally stopped raiding asylum seeker families. Despite holding Funke and Joseph for three days and three nights in their ‘pre-departure accommodation’ at Cedars which with its 2.5 metre tall perimeter fence is run by security firm G4S, the UKBA still insist: ‘We do not detain children.’
To protest at this return to inhumane actions, everyone who is concerned by the UK BA’s recent dawn raids is asked by UNITY to support a rally outside the UK BA’s headquarters in Festival Court, Brand Street, Govan on Monday 21 November from 10am. ‘We want to make it clear once and for all that the UKBA using dawn raids and the detention of families is just not acceptable.’
The United Nations’ Universal Children’s Day is on Sunday 20 November and is supposed to be set aside to promote the welfare of the children of the world.
Gary Christie, Head of Policy and Communications at the Scottish Refugee Council, said: ‘We are very concerned. After the UK Coalition Government promised to end child detention in 2010 the Home Office undertook to improve the way in which children and families were treated in the asylum process. The new Family Returns Process (FRP) was intended to treat families with children more humanely if their case had been refused. We have grave concerns about how this process is being rolled out in practice.
‘We are not convinced that all the steps of the process are being followed here in Scotland.
‘We are also highly concerned that individuals, communities and organisations working with asylum-seeking families are not being fully informed about the new process by the UK Border Agency. This has meant people in Glasgow are yet again filled with fear and panic over what could happen to them and their children.
‘It is absolutely vital that the UK Government sticks to its commitment to improve child welfare within the asylum system; and that the UK Border Agency staff working on the ground treat families and children with respect and care in all stages, particularly the end of the process, when families may be at their most vulnerable.’
In recent years, claims that enforced disappearances, torture and extra judicial executions are taking place in the West African country, have increased. Amnesty International reported in 2008 that Gambia was ruled by Fear.
President Yahya Jammeh who came to power in a bloodless coup in 1994, will not campaign for his own re-election in November because he is so confident of winning, say local commentators. In a recent six-week voter registration exercise, 869,600 people signed up to ensure they will receive a vote. The country has a population of 1.7 million of whom more than a quarter are under voting age.