Student organisations petition Glasgow to commit a hard number of refugees

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Francesca Di Fazio
Reporter

Glasgow University’s Arms Divestment Coalition, Student Action for Refugees group, and Refugee and Asylum Seeker Solidarity are calling for the Glasgow City Council to commit to taking in a hard number of refugees currently in the Greek islands.

Student organisations from the University of Glasgow are among the local signatories of a petition asking the city of Glasgow to pledge to take in an exact number of refugees and asylum seekers from the Greek hotspot camps.

The petition, addressed to Lord Provost Philip Braat and to the Leader of Glasgow City Council, Susan Aitken, is part of a campaign launched by Europe Must Act; a movement made by grassroots and civil society organisations from across the EU. The relocation of people from the overcrowded refugee camps in the EU borderlands represents the first step of a broader strategy to push for structural reform in European migration policy.

“STAR Glasgow is proud to be part of the Glasgow branch of the Europe Must Act campaign, demanding the evacuation and safety of asylum seekers trapped on the congested Aegean Islands and the immediate replacing of the EU-Turkey agreement. This treatment of asylum seekers by the EU is inhumane, cruel and violates international law,” said a representative from the Glasgow Student Action for Refugees (STAR) group.

By agreeing to the petition’s demand, Glasgow and the other European cities involved – 15 of which are in the United Kingdom – would follow the example of Berlin. On 30 March, the German capital pledged to take in 1,500 refugees and asylum seekers from the Greek hotspot camps located in the Aegean Islands.

Glasgow Refugee and Asylum Seeker Solidarity (GRASS), another GU society supporting the Glasgow Must Act campaign, believes that it is important for the city to offer sanctuary to displaced people.

“We believe Glasgow, a city that prides itself on openness and internationalism, has a moral obligation to take leadership on issues regarding refugees. This is particularly crucial given the ‘hostile environment’ narrative that currently dominates large parts of the UK,” a spokesperson from the group said.

The Glasgow University Arms Divestment Coalition (GUDAC) is also a signatory of the Glasgow Must Act petition. The group believes that the University’s investment in companies involved in the international arms trade stands in troubling contradiction with its commitment to supporting refugees and asylum seekers.

“The University’s investment fund holds (as per the most recent FOI request) £3.1m in 27 different arms manufacturers and military-services providers. We have campaigned throughout this year for the University to abide by its own Ethical Investment Policy and remove the money it holds in arms companies. The Glasgow University Arms Divestment Coalition stands in opposition to all the horrors propagated by the arms trade, and considers investment in it to be an act of complicity in such horror,” a representative from GUDAC said.

The ongoing refugee crisis has been mostly overshadowed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the room for activism seems to be reduced by social distancing measures. However, the petition’s signatories encourage students and residents to keep holding authorities accountable.

“This can be done within Universities by, for example, supporting the current campaign of Glasgow University Arms Divestment Coalition to pressure the University to cut all ties with the arms trade,” a spokesperson from GRASS said.

GRASS also said actions to support refugees and asylum seekers can be done off-campus. Their spokesperson added: “We encourage students to get involved in the numerous grassroots, community-led organisations operating in Glasgow for the benefit of refugees and asylum seekers. Glasgow City is the local authority with the most asylum seekers in the UK, many of whom are housed in Maryhill, no more than five minutes’ drive from the University. The student society Student Action for Refugees runs regular conversation classes which students can volunteer for, whereas Maryhill Integration Network and Maslow’s Community Shop are some of the organisations doing critical work within the wider city.”

The petition can be signed on their Change.org page.