LONDON: Immigration authorities in Scotland have agreed to release two asylum seekers they had detained ahead of deportation after members of their local community protested and blocked their vehicle from leaving.
Early on Thursday people surrounded a Home Office vehicle in Glasgow, Scotland, believed to contain two immigrants who had been removed from a flat.
Hundreds of people gathered in the area, chanting slogans and preventing the van from moving safely. One man laid under the vehicle to prevent it from moving. Shouts of “Leave our neighbors, let them go” and “Cops go home” could be heard.
Following an hours-long standoff, a senior Scottish police officer intervened to ensure the men were released and the standoff ended.
In a statement, Police Scotland Chief Superintendent Mark Sutherland announced the men had been released.
It said: “In order to protect the safety, public health and well-being of all people involved in the detention and subsequent protest in Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, Ch Supt Mark Sutherland has, following a suitable risk assessment, taken the operational decision to release the men detained by UK Immigration Enforcement back into their community meantime.”
The police had earlier stressed that it does not provide assistance with the removal of asylum seekers but aims to keep peace on the streets.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon denounced the attempted deportation, branding it “dangerous” and “unacceptable.”
“I disagree fundamentally with Home Office immigration policy but even putting that aside, this action was unacceptable,” she wrote on Facebook. “To act in this way, in the heart of a Muslim community as they celebrated Eid, and in an area experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak was a health and safety risk.
“Both as MSP (Member of Scottish Parliament) and as FM (First Minister), 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.”
She added: “I am proud to represent a constituency and lead a country that welcomes and shows support to asylum seekers and refugees.”
Mohammad Asif, director of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation, was among the hundreds of neighbors protesting against the action.
“We are here against the hostile environment created by the Tories and the British state,” Asif said. “The same people who ran from British and American bombs are in the back of the van right now and are about to be deported.
“It is on Eid, you know. The guys are not even allowed to pray. How do you do that in a democratic society? It is a sad day.”