Immigration change call after flat plunge deaths

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The Independent Online

Protesters called today for changes in immigration policy after the apparent suicide of three asylum-seekers.

A demonstration took place outside the UK Border Agency offices in Glasgow following the deaths of the father, mother and son, believed to be from Russia.

Their bodies were found at the bottom of a 31-storey block in Petershill Drive in the Springburn area of the city at the weekend.

Glasgow-based charity Positive Action in Housing has called for a public inquiry into the deaths.

The charity said the family had an application to stay in the UK rejected.

Around 30 protesters gathered outside the immigration office in Govan calling for greater compassion in the asylum system.

Charity director Robina Qureshi said the deaths were a "tragedy".

But she said it was a "normal occurrence" for families fearing deportation to come to the charity threatening suicide rather than return to their home country.

"They are facing the threat of being made destitute, they can't claim any benefits, they can't work, they can't access any homelessness services," she said.

"If you can't return to your country of origin, you have nowhere left in the world to live. Anyone left in that position would be driven to the brink.

"We are calling for a public inquiry into the suicide that took place as there could be more instances like this.

"No one knows what happened in that flat but we need to know what the role was of the UK Border Agency and Strathclyde Police."

Former Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan also took part in the demonstration. He said he was in "complete shock" and "ashamed as a citizen of Glasgow" over the deaths.

"I'm here for the same reason that everyone else is," he said. "Concerned and ashamed that people who were free to seek refuge in our country took their own lives.

"If you are not shocked and ashamed by what happened, I think you need to question your own humanity. It is hard to explain the depths of despair they must have felt," he said.

Mr Sheridan said he hoped the deaths would lead to a change in Home Office immigration policy and a "difference" in the way asylum seekers are treated.

"I think we all need to offer them the hand of friendship rather than a fist of fury," he said. It is believed the victims fell from the 15th floor of block 63 at the Red Road flat complex.

Many of the flats, which are earmarked for demolition, are occupied by asylum seekers and refugees.

The building is owned by Glasgow Housing Association, which lets the majority of flats in it to the YMCA.

Neighbour Faridh Pardak broke down in tears, saying the family "were only here for a better life".

"I saw them several times in our building," she said. "They were a very good family. Their life was very dangerous in their country.

"I only saw them in the lift. On Sunday I was in my flat. I saw that the police were there. I went down and I saw the three people."

Ms Pardak, a former teacher from Iran, added that she was so upset by the deaths she had been unable to eat.

"I want to know what happened to them," she said. "They were a good family. They came for a better life - not to die here."