Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has condemned Home Office raids in Glasgow’s southside where crowds are in a stand-off with police detaining locals in an immigration van.
Dozens of people – reportedly up to 200, according to people on the scene – gathered on Kenmure Street, in the Pollokshields area, after word spread on social media that the van had been spotted nearby. Protestors surrounded the van to stop it removing the detainees from the area, with some lying under the vehicle.
Reports from demonstrators suggested two men had been removed from a flat on the street before being detained in the van, where they remain several hours later.
Anti-deportation protest on Kenmure Street in Pollokshields. Immigration van is ringed by police and protesters. “These are our neighbours. Let them go.” pic.twitter.com/0xYhXw1XxX
— Catriona Stewart (@LadyCatHT) May 13, 2021
“The Home Office has chosen to terrorise my neighbourhood on Eid and is using a frighteningly large police presence to do it,” Benjamin Thomas White, a local resident taking part in the protest, told The Big Issue.
“I’m horrified by the resurgence of dawn raids and other deliberately intimidating tactics. But Glasgow has seen them off in the past and I think we’ll do it again.”
Activists chanted “these are our neighbours, let them go”, while others hung out windows with megaphones.
“I’m also protesting against the racist ‘hostile environment’ policy,” White said. “This deliberately timed and highly visible raid is a part of that.”
The police response was calm, the resident said, but the “rapid ramping up of their numbers was intimidating”.
“While I was taking pictures of the increasing number of police vans and cars – avoiding any close-ups of individual officers – a policeman followed me and took a full-face picture of me on his phone,” he added.
— Cailyn McMahon (@CailynMcMahon) May 13, 2021
White left the scene briefly and upon returning said there were ambulances in attendance while the crowd had grown to “more people than ever”.
Local politicians have condemned the raid, where dozens of police officers have formed a ring around the van to hold back protestors.
“As constituency MSP, I am deeply concerned by this action by the Home Office, especially today in the heart of a community celebrating Eid,” said Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister and MSP for Glasgow South. “My office is making urgent enquiries and stands ready to offer any necessary assistance to those detained.”
Activists were said to be trying to negotiate with police to let the detainees go. Mhairi Hunter, a councillor for the area, expressed called on the police to leave while expressing concern around the Covid-19 implications.
“You tell me to go home. Where is my home? This is my home,” one local said to the crowd.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 9.55 am this morning, Thursday, 13 May, 2021, police were called to an address in Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, following a protest by a large group of people.
“The call was made by UK Immigration Enforcement (UKIE) after a group of protesters gathered at the address where UKIE staff were in attendance. 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.”
Border enforcement is a power reserved to Westminster. Police in Scotland are required to follow UK orders over matters which are not devolved to the Scottish government.
I am disappointed that out of 8 Home Office Ministers none of them could make themselves available to speak to me.
Having spoken to the DG for Home Office in Scotland I have urged him to abandon the forced removal.
He will consider next steps & I have requested an update.
— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) May 13, 2021
SNP shadow chancellor and Glasgow Central MSP Alison Thewlis said: “This is absolutely awful, but heartened to see local residents in Pollokshields standing up for their neighbours and refusing to accept the brutality of the Home Office.
“I am taking this matter up with Ministers. Not in our name.”
The Home Office has been contacted for comment.