Kenmure Street: Police order release of men after deportation raid standoff in Glasgow street where residents blocked UK Border Agency
Police Scotland ordered the release of two men detained by immigration officers in Glasgow after a day-long standoff with protesters.
Hundreds of demonstrators descended on Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, after UK Border Force officials apparently attempted to deport a pair of men from a property there on Thursday morning.
Footage from the scene, which quickly went viral on social media, showed a small number of local residents rushing to block a Home Office van from leaving. One positioned themselves under the van.
The crowd crew to around 200 protesters, chanting “Leave our neighbours, let them go” and “Cops go home” as a ring of police stood around the van.
One man who joined the protest, compared the immigration operation on Eid to a police raid on Christmas Day.
Shortly after 5pm, Police Scotland released a statement saying the men would be released in the interests of safety.
One of the men, Lakhvir Singh, 34, from India, spoke afterwards through a translator.
He said: “I’ve been astonished and overwhelmed by the support I’ve received from the people of Glasgow.
“At around 9.30am immigration enforcement carried out a raid and we were taken to security in the van. There were only five or six people at the time but word spread and then there were crowds of hundreds.
“We are so grateful for the support.”
Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the Home Office’s actions had been “reckless” and added both he and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had been in touch with the Home Office to abandon the operation.
Saying that immigration was a reserved issue, he tweeted: “Situation should never have occurred – the UK Govt’s hostile environment is not welcome here”.
He added: “I abhor Home Office immigration policy at the best of times, but to have taken the action they have today is at best completely reckless, and at worst intended to provoke.”
Ms Sturgeon accused the Home Office of creating “a dangerous and unacceptable situation” with the action.
The First Minister, who was sworn in on Thursday as MSP for Glasgow Southside, tweeted: “As constituency MSP, I am deeply concerned by this action by the Home Office, especially today in the heart of a community celebrating Eid.
“My office is making urgent enquiries and stands ready to offer any necessary assistance to those detained.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also said he was “disgusted by the Home Office raids”.
He tweeted: “It is particularly unacceptable that this is happening during a pandemic, in an area that has a spike in cases and on the day of Eid.”
A Police Scotland statement said Superintendent Mark Sutherland had decided to release the detained men “in order to protect the safety, public health and wellbeing of those involved in the detention and subsequent protest”.
A spokeswoman said earlier: “Police Scotland does not assist in the removal of asylum seekers. Officers are at the scene to police the protest and to ensure public safety.”
Mohammad Asif, director of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation, was one of what he said were hundreds of neighbours protesting.
The 54-year-old said: “We’re here against the hostile environment created by the Tories and the British state.
“The same people who run from the British and American bombs put at the back of the van right now. And they are about to be deported.
“And it’s on Eid you know … the guys are not even allowed to pray. How do you do that in a democratic society? It’s a sad day.”
Mr Asif, who left Afghanistan as a refugee himself in 2000, said the atmosphere among the protesters was peaceful.
Wafa Shaheen, head of services at the Scottish Refugee Council, said she was “shaken and angry” at the Home Office’s decision to “force people from their homes on the first day of Eid” and she condemned the “heavy-handed approach”.
Tom, a neighbour who joined the protest, said: “The solidarity shown today shows the community will not stand for their neighbours being dragged from their homes,” the 31-year-old, who did not want to give his surname, said.
“I’d ask Christians to reflect on what it would feel like to have your house raided on Christmas Day.”
Lotte, an artist and member of the Scottish tenants union Living Rent, lives on a street nearby. She said she joined the protest when she saw a small group outside the property on Kenmure Street at 10am on Thursday.
“I’d like to express my utter disgust at the brutal removal of my neighbours from their home,” the 26-year-old said.
“It is an awful thing to do on any day, but today being Eid makes it 10 times worse.”
The Home Office was approached for comment.
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