The Tory prime minister declared he has no regrets about his recent use of the “swarms” to characterize migrants trying to reach the UK. David Ca-moron goes on to criminalise them further by alleging that they are trying to “break-in” to the UK although as refugees many have a legitimate and legal right to seek asylum in the UK without going through the proper channels and by any means possible. The government is purposefully trying to create an atmosphere of fear by stigmatizing vulnerable people as a threat to the UK’S security and sovereignty.
In a corner-shop near the Scottish Home Office, the Unity centre has been fighting for several years to protect refugees and asylum seekers who have made their home in Glasgow. Asylum seekers come in and report to Unity before signing in at the Home Office building nearby. If they are detained during their visit to the Home Office, activists can swing into action to try and get them released. It’s a system that has helped hundreds stay in Scotland since asylum seekers started arriving in Glasgow at the end of the 1990s.
“Glasgow has stood against the Home Office in lots of ways,” said one Unity activist. “We help anyone in their struggle for papers, it’s about emotional solidarity as well as practical.” He talks about a flight full of migrants that has only this morning left Heathrow for Nigeria, stopping en route in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone. “Charter flights are a way of expelling people en masse, where nobody can hear you scream. We know several of the people who have been sent out on this flight and many of them have legal processes open, they have families and children here. The Home Office just grab as many people as they can,” the activist added.
The Unity centre is only one part of a vibrant network of support for migrants and refugees across Glasgow, rooted in local communities and bringing together people from around the world with their Scottish neighbours. When the Home Office decided to start sending asylum seekers out of London to cities around the UK, Glasgow city council was the first to sign up.
The asylum seekers were placed in empty flats in long neglected high-rise estates. Neighbours appointed by the council to welcome the new families took the job seriously, bringing the new arrivals from Kosovo, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, into their communities, holding parties, bringing families from across the world together. When families were told they would not be given asylum their Scottish neighbours refused to let the Home Office remove them from the UK. Immigration officials who arrived in the early hours for “dawn raids” on families were met by enraged Glaswegians who refused to let the Home Office take their new friends away.
The demonstrations became widespread and saw the end of the dawn raids. Many thousands of people who had been threatened with removal, including many families, were allowed to stay in Scotland.
Remzije Sherifi runs the Maryhill Integration Network where people from around the world come together in award winning dance and music projects.
“We have established great links between new arrivals and local people. This grows organically from the heart if people can understand why someone would have to flee their country. It’s still hard, there are still people struggling, but there are always doors open where they can get a cup of tea.”
The world is on the move. Tens of millions are displaced. Around the world much the same question is being posed: “How are we going to absorb all those hordes of immigrants?” All across the globe nationalist, xenophobic groups and movements are busy attacking and intimidating defenseless refugees. George Orwell defined un-Christian, un-white and un-Western people simply as “un-people”, in the eyes of the West.
The overwhelming majority of the refugees are forced to leave their homelands because of political and economic consequences of capitalism. Only a few Europeans or North Americans are capable of detecting connection between their continents’ wealth, those hundreds of millions of ruined lives all over the world, and the latest wave of immigrants. Glasgow's commercial wealth was built upon the slave trade, for example. Great Britain, responsible for the loss of millions of lives worldwide through its colonial genocides and triggered/orchestrated famines, is now pretending that it is facing a serious “refugee crises”. While tiny Lebanon is now a host of over 2 million Syrian refugees, one of the main global bullies, the UK, has lesser than 25,000 registered asylum applicants on its territory. Immigrants are being portrayed as some menace, or pest, not as a group of desperate human beings – victims of the British Empire and the neo-colonialism that followed it. Much of the blame can be placed on the politicians and the toadying media. Even the liberal voices only offer concessions out of charity and not recognise solidarity as an obligation and so they do little to throw open the gates or knock down the walls of Fortress Europe.
As long as capitalism reigns supreme, as long as profit-seeking rules over the planet, the refugees will be crossing dangerous seas to seek safety and security. Many will die in the process but some will make it to be defined as “illegal” and persecuted and where victims will have to lie, in order to just survive. The Socialist Party as part of the World Socialist Movement stands with the exploited and the oppressed of all parts of the globe.