Tuesday, March 09, 2010


3 of our fellow human beings lie dead at the foot of a tower block in Glasgow; they were a family of asylum seekers who jumped to their deaths. The situation has moved on from whether we should accept asylum seekers or under what circumstances we should accept them; we are now dealing with how we the people of this country feel about what is being done in our name to asylum seekers. I believe that we have a duty as decent human beings to accept asylum seekers but that is now taking a back seat to how we treat them; I am not going into details of this case or the case in general for asylum seekers, the people who campaign for them and supply practical help to them (Positive Action in Housing [home@paih.org]) can do that better than I can and I therefore print below their humane and decent response to this latest avoidable tragedy; I urge you to read this and respond to their pleas.





(please copy your emails or correspondence to home@paih.org )

The bodies of the family, a couple and their son, were found at the bottom of a 31-storey block at 63 Petershill Drive, Springburn, Glasgow, on Sunday morning. We understand they were asylum-seekers who had received a negative decision from the UK Borders Agency (UKBA).

According to the Unity Centre in Govan, Strathclyde police visited the family’s flat on the 15th floor last Friday to tell them their asylum case had been refused and they would have to leave the flat. It is common for the police only to come to the door of a refused asylum seeker at the request of the landlord after the family have refused to leave their accommodation.

So far, the YMCA who were landlords for the three are refusing to comment to the media. (The YMCA has a highly profitable contract with the UK Borders Agency to house asylum seekers in the Red Road flats, which are some of Glasgow’s worst housing stock).

It is difficult to understand why it has taken the police more than 24 hours to identify the three people as all asylum seekers are repeatedly asked to give their finger-prints by the Home Office and their landlords, the YMCA, should be able to tell the police who was living in the flat at the time.

At the moment, the Home Office are saying they are not prepared to comment, however it has been known for asylum seekers to be so desperate that they jump from their windows if they think they are about be detained in a dawn raid by the Home Office's Enforcement Team. Neighbours have said that they thought the Home Office had been banging on the door on Sunday morning when the family jumped.

Every-day, Positive Action in Housing’s staff are confronted with the reality of asylum seekers coming into the office crying or upset because they have just been told they must leave the country. Then their money and housing is stopped a week later. We run a hardship fund and give out small amounts of cash for food and arrange free shelter in the homes of our volunteers. There is a great deal of mental strain and it is normal currency for people to talk about ending their lives as a viable alternative to destitution or removal.

After years of waiting on a decision, and putting your life and the lives of your family on hold, it’s a big shock to be systematically stripped of each and every one of your basic human rights of food, shelter and work by the asylum system, and then face the daily terror of destitution or possible removal in the early hours. Then it’s easy to see why someone would consider suicide preferable to returning to an unsafe country.

We believe there should be a public inquiry into these deaths, and the impact of the UK Borders Agency and their terror campaign - disguised as asylum policy - on the lives of asylum seekers who have lived here for years but live in permanent fear of destitution, detention and removal. Many asylum seekers flee persecution or death, only to be terrorised by the prospect of removal back to an unsafe country, and in the process face destitution or long term detention. The current asylum system is based on the false premise that all asylum seekers are bogus. We need a complete rethink.


This case, and many others, raise serious questions about the way the UK asylum system operates in this country. Members of the public have a right to know if we have a fair asylum system, or one which terrorises vulnerable people to the point they would take their own lives. Please demand the following questions are answered and write to your MSP, MP, the First Minister, the Scottish Secretary and the home Secretary:

Please copy your correspondence to home@paih.org. Email addresses are at the end of this email.

1. Who were the family and what was their background in the UK?

2. Demand a public enquiry into the suicides and in particular the details of all communications the UK Borders Agency had with the family.

3. What communications did the YMCA and Strathclyde Police have with the family?

4. We want to know the Home Office arrangements for the deceased. Have the relatives of the deceased been informed? What plans does the UKBA have to remove their bodies to their countries of origin? (We know of cases where the bodies of dead asylum seekers have been left unclaimed in mortuaries for years, this charity has had to step in to raise funds for the return of the dead to their families for a proper burial).

5. Neighbours have stated that on Saturday evening, a few hours before the suicide, the family were seen taking bags out of the flat. We believe they were planning to escape removal, not commit suicide, and that happened on the Sunday morning which drove them to make the decision to build a pyre of furniture on the veranda and throw themselves from their fifteenth floor. We want to know if the Home Office Removal vans were in the vicinity. We want to know if UK Borders Agency removal officials were in the vicinity of 63 Petershill Drive. Were they, as has been suggested, knocking at the door of the suicide victims at 63 Petershill Drive, Springburn on Sunday morning with a view to removing the family?

6. Why are innocent children still being locked up like criminals in Scotland? Many asylum seekers who report weekly to Brand Street reporting centre don't know if this or the next week they will simply not be allowed to leave. Only on Friday, Stephanie Ovrawah went to pick up her twin six year old sons, Joshua and Joel, from Cranhill Primary School in Glasgow before going to “sign” at Brand Street Reporting Centre. The family have been Glasgow residents since the children were babies. They were immediately detained with the children still in their school uniforms, no goodbyes to their neighbours or school friends, no chance to pick up their belongings from home; they were just taken to Dungavel Removal Centre and then to Yarls Wood Removal centre, where they currently await their fate. Joshua (6) said today, “I miss my friend Taylor. I miss Mrs O’Brien and Mr Downs. They are our teachers. They said they are sending us back. I don’t know this Africa... My mum says we didn’t do anything wrong. They shout at us and a guard hit my brother. We want to leave, this is a prison and a dump… I want to go back to school tomorrow and see my friends Taylor, Rhys and Keegan. ”

7. We want questions raised in the Scottish parliament asto why the barbarism of the UK asylum system is allowed to operate on Scottish soil. What is the Scottish Government going to do to put a stop to this once and for all?

Please write to the following people to demand answers about this case and the way the asylum system operates. Please copy your correspondence to home@paih.org

Write to your MSP, MP and MEP. To find out who your local representative is, just enter your postcode in http://www.writetothem.com/ and email them from the website.

Write to:

Alex Salmond, First Minister at FirstMinister@scotland.gsi.gov.uk
Jim Murphy, Scotland Secretary at jimmurphymp@parliament.uk
Alan Johnson, Home Secretary at johnsona@parliament.uk
Or: public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
Privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk UKBApublicenquiries@UKBA.gsi.gov.uk

Positive Action in Housing Ltd is a Scottish wide charity working with communities, housing providers, voluntary organisations and faith groups to enable everyone to have an equal chance to live in good quality, affordable and safe homes, free from discrimination and the fear of racial harassment and violence. We offer advice, information and support to people from new migrant, refugee and minority ethnic communities. We run a free, confidential and impartial casework service for those facing poverty, homelessness, racism or poor housing. We run a Hardship Fund and provide emergency shelter and practical resources for destitute asylum seekers and their families. We provide volunteering and sessional work opportunities. We support human rights and anti-racist campaigns. We inform social policy from a user-led perspective
As a charity, Positive Action in Housing depends on donations. Please help us by making a single or monthly donation. Alternatively, donate online via your internet banking, through PayPal, or make a donation quickly, easily and securely online now via JustGiving.
The flats at Petershill Drive are run by the YMCA under a contract with the UKBA. It is not known exactly how much money the YMCA makes per asylum seeker from that contract.
Hundreds of refused asylum seekers in Glasgow rely on Positive Action in Housing when they are forced into destitution because of the UK government’s insistence that they return to unsafe countries. Through our destitution project, Lifeline, our caseworkers arrange for destitute clients to stay in the homes of our volunteers, and arrange practical support such as clothes, sleeping bags, food, shelter and befriending, as well as access to legal and housing support. We have a database of volunteers who provide free shelter in their homes. We rely on donations to pay towards the hardship fund.
We provide a Hardship Fund which gives out small sums of cash for food and hostel accommodation (£1500 per month). In 2009, we gave out over 700 destitution payments totalling £18,020 to prevent people going hungry or becoming street homeless.
In 2009, we assisted 975 households. Out of this, 276 were destitute asylum seekers. This represents a 25% increase since 2008. We provided 1,368 nights of shelter through hostels (554 nights) and volunteers (814 nights). 128 people (55%) were in the process of lodging a fresh claim or a judicial review when they were made destitute. We assisted destitute asylum seekers from 44 countries including the following: Iran (15%), Iraq (14%), Somalia ( 9%), Zimbabwe (8%), China (8%), Dem Rep of Congo (7%) and Sudan (5%)


Linkie said...

How brave of these poor people. We all live lives of quiet misery and bear it, to a degree, or not. If life is intolerable it takes a great deal of courage to end it. They did not jump in front of a train or bus, and cause anguish to the driver (as I have known). I am sorry they felt life was not worth living, it isn't really anyway. Quality of life is so poor for so many folk, in one way or another.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

(Linkie) 09/03/10
The tragedy is that this was preventable; no blame attaches itself to a train driver in such circumstances.
Quality of life is very bad for many people that’s why I am involved in politics but life is worth living; what you need is a cause worth devoting yourself to.