Police release men from immigration van blocking Glasgow street

Published
Media caption,
People who had surrounded an immigration van holding two men cheered when they were released by police

Two men who were being detained in an immigration van which was surrounded by protesters have been released.

The move followed a standoff between police officers and protesters in Kenmure Street on Glasgow's southside.

Early on Thursday people surrounded the Home Office vehicle believed to contain two Indian immigrants who had been removed from a flat.

Hundreds gathered in the area, with one man crawling under the van to prevent it from moving.

The Home Office said the men had been detained over "suspected immigration offences".

Some of the protesters were heard shouting "let our neighbours go".

Media caption,
Protesters block immigration van from leaving Glasgow street

In a statement, Police Scotland said that Ch Supt Mark Sutherland had decided to have the men released.

It said: "In order to protect the safety, public health and well-being of all people involved in the detention and subsequent protest in Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, today, Ch Supt 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. Please take care when leaving the area and follow the directions of the officers on the street."

Earlier the force stressed that it did not assist in the removal of asylum seekers, and that officers were at the scene to police the protest and to ensure public safety.

Image source, PA Media

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is also the MSP for the area, said she disagreed fundamentally with Home Office immigration policy.

She said: "This action was unacceptable. To act in this way, in the heart of a Muslim community as they celebrated Eid, and in an area experiencing a Covid outbreak was a health and safety risk."

She said she would be "demanding assurances" from the UK government that they would not create such a dangerous situation again.

She added: "No assurances were given - and frankly no empathy shown - when I managed to speak to a junior minister earlier."

Nicola Sturgeon and her justice secretary, Humza Yousaf are seeking follow up talks with the Home Secretary, Priti Patel.

They believe Immigration Enforcement has acted provocatively by trying to remove migrants from an ethnically diverse community during Eid.

The resulting protests brought people together, against Covid rules, in part of Glasgow which is experiencing a spike in cases linked to the Indian variant.

Police Scotland intervened on public health and public order grounds to require the release of the two Indian nationals being held by Immigration Enforcement.

Their operational decision is fully supported by Scottish ministers and while the Home Office is always grateful for police assistance, releasing the men on bail is hardly the outcome they wanted.

They will not have enjoyed being seen to back down in the face of public and political protest.

Humza Yousaf, the Scottish government's justice secretary, said: "the action they [the Home Office] have today is at best completely reckless, and at worst intended to provoke, on a day the UK government would have known the Scottish government and MSPs would be distracted by parliamentary process."

He added that the situation "should never have occurred", and that "the UK government's hostile environment is not welcome here."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
One of the protesters lay underneath the immigration van to stop it from moving

In a statement, the Home Office 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."

The Sikhs in Scotland group said in a statement that it was "deeply concerned", and urged the Home Office to "abandon forced removals and to adopt an immigration policy based on human rights, compassion and dignity".

Mohammad Asif, of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation, said hundreds of people were protesting.

The 54-year-old added: "We're here against the hostile environment created by the Tories and the British state."

Incidents like Kenmure Street - at the centre of Scotland's most ethnically diverse neighbourhood - will do nothing to persuade those who already believe the UK's policy on immigration is unfair and inhumane.

Despite the protest, the Home Office says it was a legitimate operation targeting those it suspected of immigration offences.

And yet there could be more problems on the horizon. The Home Office has just ended its consultation on its New Plan for Immigration - a policy that will speed up deportations for those who have entered the country 'illegally'.

Those in such a position will not be able to claim asylum and will instead be granted 'temporary protection', a status that would come under periodic review.

More than 70 charities and faith groups in Scotland have condemned such proposals.

The Home Office is toughening its stance on immigration, but says its policies will make the system fairer for those most in need, while discouraging criminal activity like people trafficking.

The Scottish government, and the protestors in Glasgow today, fundamentally disagree.