Police order release of men detained in immigration raid after Glasgow standoff

·4 min read
Hundreds of residents, including politicians, took to the streets in Glasgow to protest the attempted removal  - Getty Images Europe
Hundreds of residents, including politicians, took to the streets in Glasgow to protest the attempted removal - Getty Images Europe

Two men detained by UK immigration officers in Glasgow on Thursday were released hours later after hundreds of protests surrounded a Home Office van to block the removal.

Police Scotland said they took the decision on safety grounds after around 200 demonstrators took to the streets following a raid at a property in Pollokshields, within Nicola Sturgeon's constituency, just before 10am.

The attempted removal sparked an angry response from neighbouring residents and politicians as it coincided with the start of celebrations for Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival marking the end of Ramadan.

Staff from UK Immigration Enforcement are believed to have swooped on a property in Pollokshields, as campaigners questioned why the widely condemned practice of dawn raids appears to be recurring in Glasgow, the only dispersal city for asylum seekers in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon accused the Home Office of creating a "dangerous situation" and described the Government's immigration policy as "unacceptable" as she led the objections from politicians and campaigners.

One man positioned himself under the Home Office van to prevent it from being driven off, while chants of "Leave our neighbours, let them go" and "Cops go home" rang out at the scene.

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At around 5pm, following several hours of protests, Police Scotland confirmed the detained men would be released "in order to protect the safety, public health and wellbeing of all people involved in the detention and subsequent protest".

One of the men, Lakhvir Singh, 34, from India, spoke through a translator after his release. He said: "I've been astonished and overwhelmed by the support I've received from the people of Glasgow.

"At around 9.30am immigration enforcement carried out a raid and we were taken to security in the van. There were only five or six people at the time but word spread and then there were crowds of hundreds."

Ms Sturgeon said she would demand an explanation from the Government following the incident.

The First Minister tweeted: "Both as MSP and as FM, I will be demanding assurances from the UK Government that they will never again create, through their actions, such a dangerous situation. No assurances were given - and frankly no empathy shown - when I managed to speak to a junior minister earlier.”

While the SNP government has argued strongly for Scotland to have control over its own immigration policy, that power currently remains reserved to Westminster.

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A number of other high-profile Scottish politicians expressed their solidarity with protesters throughout the day, with Labour leader Anas Sarwar writing that he is “disgusted” by the Home Office raids while Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said it is “horrific that people are forced to take such action to defend their most vulnerable neighbours from the brutality of the UK Home Office”.

One 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," said the 31-year-old Tom, who did not want to give his surname.

"I'd ask Christians to reflect on what it would feel like to have your house raided on Christmas Day."

Meanwhile, Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf condemned the Home Office’s actions as “reckless”.

"I abhor Home Office immigration policy at the best of times, but to have taken the action they have today is at best completely reckless, and at worst intended to provoke,” he said.

He added that it is “increasingly clear” that the UK Government is “incapable of delivering policies that reflect Scotland’s values, circumstances or interests”.

A spokesman for 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.”