Glasgow stand-off: Residents cheer as immigration officials release two men after crowd blocks van

‘I’ve been astonished and overwhelmed by the support from the people of Glasgow,’ says one man

Jane Dalton
Thursday 13 May 2021 20:24
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Protesters block van removing Muslim immigrants in Glasgow

Police have released two men detained by immigration officials after crowds swarmed the street for hours to block their van from leaving.

Officers said they were freeing the men for the safety of everyone involved following a stand-off in Glasgow that lasted for nearly eight hours.

The men were let out of the van and waved to the cheering crowds as they walked away, surrounded by a large number of police officers.

The pair, both Indians, were detained on suspicion of immigration offences and were released on bail pending further investigation.

Earlier, hundreds of residents had surrounded the Border Agency van in the Pollokshields area of Glasgow to try to prevent immigration officers from removing the men. One person lay underneath the van.

The protest prompted first minister Nicola Sturgeon to accuse the Home Office of creating “a dangerous and unacceptable situation”.

Three protesters were arrested, according to the No Evictions Network campaign group.

Announcing the men’s release, Police Scotland said in a statement: “In order to protect the safety, public health and wellbeing of all people involved in the detention and subsequent protest in Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, today, Chief Superintendent Mark Sutherland has, following a suitable risk assessment, taken the operational decision to release the men detained by UK Immigration Enforcement back into their community meantime.

“In order to facilitate this quickly and effectively, Police Scotland is asking members of the public to disperse from the street as soon as possible.”

One of the men, Lakhvir Singh, 34, said through a translator: “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.”

During the day, Ms Sturgeon had said her office was making urgent enquiries and stood “ready to offer any necessary assistance to those detained”.

Scotland’s justice secretary and MSP for Glasgow Pollok, Humza Yousaf, asked to speak to home secretary Priti Patel about the events.

“I have asked to speak to the Home Secretary to gain further details & make clear just how unacceptable this situation is,” he tweeted.

Mohammad Asif, director of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation, said the two men were Muslim and had come from war-torn countries, but the Home Office later said they were not Muslim.

“We’re here against the hostile environment created by the Tories and the British state,” he said.

A protester called Sophie, from No Evictions Network, who did not want to give her second name, told The Independent the two men from the same address had had no chance to eat, drink or use the toilet since being put in the van around 9.30am.

“We just don’t agree anyone should be forcibly removed from their homes under any circumstances,” she said. “Their neighbours clearly care about them.”

She added that although the protest was effectively stopping the men getting access to facilities, they did not agree with the alternative – the men going to an immigration detention centre.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK government is tackling illegal immigration and the harm it causes, often to the most vulnerable people by removing those with no right to be in the UK.

“The operation in Glasgow was conducted in relation to suspected immigration offences, and the two Indian nationals complied with officers at all times.

“The UK government continues to tackle illegal migration in all its forms and our new plan for immigration will speed up the removal of those who have entered the UK illegally.”

Police Scotland insisted the force did not assist in the removal of asylum-seekers, and that officers were there to police the protest and to ensure public safety.

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