Immigration detentions protester warns Home Office ‘shouldn’t act like mafia’

A campaigner who took part in a mass protest against the detention of two men in Glasgow has said its success sends a message that the Home Office “shouldn’t act like the mafia”.

Police Scotland released two Indian nationals detained by Border Force officials in Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, after people surrounded the van they were being held in and prevented it from leaving on Thursday.

Demonstrators blocked the immigration enforcement van for several hours, with one even lying underneath the vehicle.

Glasgow immigration protest
One person placed themselves underneath the immigration van to stop it moving (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mohammad Asif told the PA news agency: “People are fed up with a climate of fear… it was the people’s revolution, led by the people – ordinary people of Glasgow in Pollokshields.”

Mr Asif director of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation, joined the protest from 10am until the men’s release shortly after 5pm.

The 54-year-old said he texted “nearly 600” people on Thursday encouraging them to join the protest, which was attended by hundreds of people from the local community.

Asked what message the protest’s success sends, Mr Asif said: “The Home Office shouldn’t act like the mafia, they should have a more humane way of removing people.

“We don’t say every person should come to the UK and live here, but we’ve been watching these dawn raids – myself for the past 20 years.

“The Home Office does it in a very brutal way… it’s like you’ve committed murder or rape – there are different ways to remove people without taking them from their bed.”

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Mr Asif, who left Afghanistan as a refugee in 2000, said he visited the two men’s families during the protest.

“I spoke to the father and the old man was crying… their family members were all crying, shaking and shivering,” he said.

Mr Asif also condemned the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – proposed legislation which will hand greater powers to police to shut down protests deemed overly noisy or disruptive.

Although the Bill only applies to England and Wales, Mr Asif said protests like the one in Glasgow would not be able to occur and campaigners outside of Scotland need to “stand up” to halt the legislation.

“My appeal to… my colleagues in England and other parts of the UK, they should stand up,” he said.

“If they let it go, the next time protests will be banned – if we allowed it, this would be a failure on our part.”

Glasgow immigration protest
Mr Asif said he visited the two men’s families in their homes while the protest was ongoing (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mr Asif is Muslim and although Thursday marked the Islamic festival of Eid al-Fitr, which he would normally have spent with family, he and fellow protesters said they were prepared to stay at the scene.

It is understood neither of the men who were in the van is Muslim, but the Border Force action was widely criticised for taking place on Eid al-Fitr.

Mr Asif said: “We were there to stay as long as it took.

“I didn’t even see my family. Although it was a very special day for us… we missed that (Eid) – and we missed it for a reason. We stood against injustice.”

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Home Office needs to ask “itself hard questions” after the protests.

She tweeted: “Doing this on Eid, in the heart of our Muslim community, and in the midst of a serious Covid outbreak was staggeringly irresponsible – but the even deeper problem is an appalling asylum & immigration policy.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said on Thursday: “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.”