When I worked in Scotland on refugee and asylum issues, I was always amazed and inspired by the campaigning of activists, particularly in Glasgow, against the dawn raids against asylum seekers there. UKBA (or what they were called back then) said that they only ever encountered this kind of resistance in Glasgow and it was often by Scottish, working class, community and anti-poverty campaigners allied with asylum seeker families on the estates that they were dispersed to.
The behaviour of UKBA in London recently and the horror that many Londoners have reacted to it with made me think that many Londoners could learn a lot from how Glaswegians organised in resistance to raids years ago.
I was very peripheral to this so I’ve asked some people I know up there to write about it themselves, encourage those involved to write about it and provide links which may be helpful for activists in England.
I’ll add to this post as I get more info and links, but please if you were directly involved in the alert squads in Glasgow or know people who were – please write about it!
The thing that struck me most about the resistance to dawn raids in Glasgow was that they were community led. This was children and grannies… people who had never been interested in politics or direct action before. They were people that had seen their community immeasurably improved by the community spirit and passion for life of asylum seeking families, especially children. They were united by the horror of seeing their friends and neighbours traumatised and torn from their community in such a violent fashion. So, they organised – they raised awareness through the media, through the Parliament, through word of mouth. They also took direct action, billeting asylum seeking families in their homes, peacefully opposing removals by blocking access and by filming and bringing media attention to tactics used by UKBA. While the schools – particularly Drumchapel High School were an essential focal point, it really was a movement made up of individuals. It was inspiring to see.
This Wikipedia page on the Glasgow girls has some good background and links.
In my view the role of the Herald was important in highlighting the issue and applying pressure for change. The Asylum Positive images Project was useful in supporting positive reporting, and supporting cross working between key organisations including the NUJ. One of its publications is basically a guide on how to the same sort of work. Link here.
I was involved in some of the community resistance to the raids at the Red Road Flats, whilst working at the Red Road Women’s Centre. Warning trees etc etc. I joined protests about Brand St and reporting too, which culminated in the Unity centre being hired right opposite the reporting centre. I haven’t seen anything as good since or in Manchester, where I am now.
Submission by Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People to Home Affairs Committee Inquiry into Immigration Control, 2005. PDF here.