Protesters surround van in bid to stop immigration removals

A man has placed himself under an immigration enforcement van in Glasgow as protesters try to prevent it from leaving.

The van is parked on Kenmure Street, with protesters also sitting on the road in front of it and police officers surrounding the vehicle.

Around 200 protesters are at the scene, with chants of “Leave our neighbours, let them go” and “Cops go home” being heard.

Protester under van
One protester has placed himself under the immigration enforcement van (Andrew Milligan/PA)

A large number of police officers in face masks are in attendance.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “At around 9.55am this morning, police were called to support colleagues at the UK Border Agency at an address in Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, Glasgow.

“A number of protesters are now at the location.

“Officers are at the scene and inquiries are continuing.”

Police later added: “The call was made by UK Immigration Enforcement (UKIE) after a group of protesters gathered at the address where UKIE staff were in attendance.

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“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.”

Mohammad Asif, director of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation, was one of what he said were hundreds of neighbours protesting against the action.

The 54-year-old told the PA news agency: “We’re here against the hostile environment created by the Tories and the British state.

“The same people who run from the British and American bombs put at the back of the van right now. And they are about to be deported.

“And it’s on Eid you know… the guys are not even allowed to pray. How do you do that in a democratic society? It’s a sad day.”

Police officers
Dozens of police officers in face marks are at the scene (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mr Asif, who left Afghanistan as a refugee himself in 2000, said the atmosphere amongst the protesters is peaceful.

Sabir Zazai, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, wrote on Twitter: “Not close to the details on this but this is shocking, disgraceful and racist if people are raided by enforcement officers amidst the pandemic on the day of #Eid.”

Tom, a neighbour who joined the protest, compared the immigration operation on Eid to a police raid on Christmas Day.

“The solidarity shown today shows the community will not stand for their neighbours being dragged from their homes,” the 31-year-old, who did not want to give his surname, told PA.

“I’d ask Christians to reflect on what it would feel like to have your house raided on Christmas Day.”

He said the police presence was “increasing fairly rapidly”, with 10 vans at the scene by around midday.

Glasgow protesters
Protesters are trying to stop refugees being removed (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was “deeply concerned” at the scenes.Ms Sturgeon, who was sworn in on Thursday as MSP for Glasgow Southside, tweeted: “As constituency MSP, I am deeply concerned by this action by the Home Office, especially today in the heart of a community celebrating Eid.

“My office is making urgent enquiries and stands ready to offer any necessary assistance to those detained.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said he was “disgusted by the Home Office raids”.

He tweeted: “It is particularly unacceptable that this is happening during a pandemic, in an area that has a spike in cases and on the day of Eid.”