The article below is similar to one which I printed a couple of days ago; I was contacted by the YMCA who strongly denied the allegations made by ‘Positive Action in Housing’ at the time and I printed their version of events. PAH have chosen to reiterate their version of events in more detail and I again print what they have said; I will of course afford the same courtesy to the YMCA. I have received no response to my last article asking the YMCA some questions. The story is a horrendous one and if it is accurate it simply cannot be allowed to continue; it beggars belief that the YMCA are responsible for a service where such abuses are happening and that is why they have to speak out. We also have to have a full public enquiry to get to the truth and put right any abuses that may be taking place.
In the meantime I urge everyone to contact their elected political representatives at all levels to demand action on this before there are any other tragedies. At the bottom of this article you can find details of how to support the work of ‘Positive Action in Housing’ I urge you to try to help by sending a donation. Click here for Positive Action in Housing's letter to the Lord Advocate asking for a fatal accident enquiry.
Latest release from Positive Action in Housing.
Many people will be aware of the story of the asylum seeker whose belongings were cleared out of his room at the Red Road flats by the YMCA while he was at a candlelit vigil for the Sehryk Family alongside 250 other residents at 63 Petershill Drive, Glasgow on Tuesday 9th March 2010. Saeed had received a letter from the YMCA telling him to leave his flat but he has nowhere else to go.
There was clearly a lot of tensions and sadness following the Red road suicides and for this to happen at all, never mind on the night of the vigil, showed, in our view a clear lack of humanity or compassion. Tensions could have flared as 25-30 people gathered round to see what the young man was upset about.
People were clearly distressed and upset and angry for the young man, especially after what had happened to the Sehryk family, clearly there was an incredulity in the air about the depths to which our “civilised” society could sink at a time of such despair and hopelessness in this community.
To calm things, we went with the young man, Saeed, to his flat. The events were filmed. The flat was indeed completely cleared out except for the cleaner’s Hoover (marked Cynthia) and cleaner’s trolley. We followed Saeed and a representative of the Scottish Afghan Society, Mohammad Asif, spoke to the staff at reception, two men. The two men rummaged amongst bags of other people’s clothes and called out names to Saeed. These were clearly not his. They then told Saeed in the presence of six witnesses that his stuff was probably thrown out or in the bin. Saeed was stood before us in the clothes he wore, with a pair of keys and a letter from the YMCA telling him to leave. (See attached).
On Wednesday 10th March, we sent a letter to the YMCA by email dated Wed 10/03/2010 18:46 expressing our shock at the way this young man was treated. We made it clear that if this is the YMCA’s standard practice when treating asylum seekers, then it is nothing short of flammatory to the Red road community and a disgrace to civilized society.
In a reply to Positive Action in Housing dated Thursday 11 March 2010, the YMCA’s Chief Executive Joe Connoly denied receiving our correspondence and stated that our account of events were “defamatory and offensive”. Mr Connoly went onto state that YMCA Glasgow has a “no eviction” policy.
This does not tie in with Saeed’s experience or those who witnessed what happened to him. If you get a letter telling you to leave by the YMCA and then find that all your belongings have been cleared out, then in our estimation, Saeed was evicted.
We should make it clear that we have filmed evidence of the events that unfolded on the night of Tuesday 9 March 2010 and sworn statements from Saeed and other witnesses. Furthermore, we have other service users who have received letters telling them to vacate YMCA accommodation. Yet they have nowhere to go.
In a separate piece of correspondence on Thursday 11 March 2010, the YMCA stated:
“The person [Saeed] is with his belongings, accommodated by YMCA Glasgow and, in accordance with our no eviction policy, will remain so until the Scottish Refugee Council are able to provide him with the assistance he requires”.
According to Saeed, this is simply not true. On Wednesday 10 March, he stayed at another asylum seekers flat, sleeping on the sofa. The following day, Thursday 11 March, a YMCA staff member searched for and found Saeed at the other asylum seeker’s flat, and hurriedly reinstated him in his original room that had been cleared out. The YMCA staff member then handed him a bag of dirty, scorched clothes, and told him, "Your problem is over". His dead family's photographs are still missing.
Unfortunately it was not over, for two reasons. Firstly, the bin bag of clothes that Saeed was given were not his. In fact, to add insult to injury, the clothes he received back were dirty, scorched and not even his size or style. Secondly, the following day, Friday 12 March, Saeed went to report at the UKBA Brand Street Reporting Centre. UKBA staff told him that he must report every week instead of the usual fortnightly reporting. Saeed is very worried about this sudden change in frequency of reporting, and thinks it is because he has attracted attention by talking about the way he was treated.
On Tuesday 16 March, Positive Action in Housing gave Saeed a little bit of money from our hardship fund to buy food as he has no other means of support. Yesterday, Wednesday 17 March, Saeed's lawyer advised him to report the missing belongings to the Police. We contacted Strathclyde Police who spoke to the YMCA. Today, Thursday 18 March, Saeed informed us that a YMCA member of staff visited him to find out what was missing and to begin a search of his missing belongings. As yet, Saeed’s belongings remain missing.
At 11 am, tomorrow, Friday 19 March, Saeed will attend a press conference prior to going into Brand Street to sign. The conference will provide an update to Saeed's extraordinary circumstances.
Saeed fled Afghanistan to escape the Taleban because they were forcing young men and boys in his neighbourhood to become suicide bombers.
This is not the first time that the treatment of asylum seekers by the YMCA has come under public scrutiny. As early as June 2000, the Sunday Herald reported that:
“More than 20 representatives of a group of 102 asylum-seekers housed in the YMCA building in Springburn said they were living in fear, being supplied with inadequate food and were discriminated against by the building's staff, who would not allow visitors. Ola Adewale said he arrived in Britain two months ago. He fled his Nigerian home in fear of his life, after earlier being detained and tortured by security services for speaking out against the government. He told the Sunday Herald he had been victimised by senior members of the YMCA's staff. "Up until last week, most of them were not treating us like human beings," he said. "I was in the building's reception and I picked up a magazine to read. A senior staff member said, 'Get away from that place, it is not for asylum seekers'.
In July 2000, the Herald newspaper reported that
“Asylum seekers called on MSPs to take action over conditions in their temporary accommodation which make them feel like 'prisoners'. Seven Glasgow-based refugees met the politicians to give them accounts of their difficulties and submitted a 70-signature petition describing their 'deplorable' conditions. The refugees, who were mostly professionals in their home countries, spoke of their fear and anxiety living at the YMCA centre in Sighthill, and said they had been attacked in their rooms and in the street. Their 'plea for support' expressed gratitude for 'providing us with a safe place in which to hide after our escape from almost certain death, torture and other forms of persecution'. It added that Glaswegians had 'consistently shown us a lot of love and a spirit of friendliness which we have found astonishing'. However, it went on to say that the YMCA accommodation was 'ridden with problems' because of inappropriate diet and meal times, and many asylum seekers were suffering weight loss problems. The petition accused the YMCA of treating the refugees like 'prisoners', although it conceded that they were at least now allowed visitors. It described as 'incomprehensible' the decision to place four women - including one who is pregnant - and two children, aged eight and nine, among 90 men in what could be a tense and aggressive atmosphere.”
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