Speakers at the event included Green Party City Councillor Kim Long, Paul Sweeney MP, a representative for Stand Up to Racism Scotland, and the CEO of the Scottish Refugee Council.
Approximately 400 people took to the Buchanan Street steps this evening to protest the impending eviction of over 300 asylum seekers from Serco properties in Glasgow.
Speakers at the event included Green Party City Councillor Kim Long, Paul Sweeney MP, a representative for Stand Up to Racism Scotland, and Sabir Zazai, CEO of the Scottish Refugee Council. Sweeney, the Labour MP for Glasgow North East pressed for resistance to Serco’s plans and joined other speakers in calling for direct action to block the evictions if necessary.
The protest was called shortly after the news of the evictions broke and was organised by Lauren Ní Raghallaigh. In a statement to The Glasgow Guardian she said: "This protest was born out of sheer frustration and anger. This display of inhumanity is not representative of who this city is and I really don't want to see this cruel eviction happen without a fight. I hope this will empower people to take action and show those facing destitution that these evictions are not the wants of the average citizen.
“The best thing people can do at this moment to help the situation is to is contact their local representatives, donate to organisations already working with refugees across Glasgow and Scotland, take time to read up on the issue whilst it is in the public sphere, volunteer your time and very importantly offer a spare room to host a refugee through Positive Action. This situation is not going away soon and public protest is always a good first step."
Serco, which operates as a landlord as part of their contract with the Home Office housing (and detaining) asylum seekers was revealed earlier this week to be planning the eviction of over 300 people in Glasgow who are housed by the company after their asylum appeals have been rejected by the Home Office.
Jennifer Halliday, the contract director for Serco’s scheme for housing asylum seekers was quoted in a statement released by the company: “Serco has been providing housing free of charge to over 300 former asylum seekers who no longer have the right to stay in the UK. We have been paying for the rent, the rates, the heating and lighting, and insurance on their properties, in many cases for many months all at our own expense. Each of these former asylum seekers have been refused the right to stay in the UK by the government and the Home Office does not fund Serco to provide them with accommodation.”
The Glasgow Guardian spoke to some people attending the protest, asking them why they thought it was important to show up:
"Just to try and raise a bit of awareness and act in solidarity. Serco are just doing their thing and it doesn’t seem like there’s much political will to do anything about it. [On what he thinks about the calls for direct action]. I think that’s a good idea, I mean, why not? If someone’s going to go in changing locks, it’s probably just going to be some like, locksmith and they’ll be unlikely to be willing to force their way through a crowd of people or whatever. I think that’s worked before for dawn raids and things like that, there’s been a history of that working." - Matt, 34, Glasgow
"I’m here because, after reading the article and hearing more about what Serco are doing and knowing that what they do is in response to [inaudible] maybe people "overstaying their welcome", [...] I’m just really against it - I think it’s a gross way to treat humans, it’s inhumane. It’s a way to put 300 people just homeless in the streets of Glasgow. When I seen that the protest was happening I wanted to take part and to support it. [On what she thinks about the calls fo direct action]. I think we’ve got a lot of work to do, I think this type of action, to stand and just protest is a good step towards maybe Serco not changing the locks for now and reassessing and rethinking that as an approach [...] I think that’s what this kind of thing can do, but it’s a big fight in the long game.” - Rachael, 32, Glasgow