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Two refugees were released by immigration enforcement agents Thursday evening after about 200 local residents held an impromptu protest as the men were loaded into a van. (Photo: @KimJohnsonMP/Twitter)

'Nothing Is More Beautiful Than Solidarity': Hundreds Mobilize to Stop Arrest of Immigrant Neighbors in Glasgow

"This is what we need to be prepared to do again and again as the Tories bring in their new immigration proposals and demonize asylum seekers and refugees," said MP Kim Johnson.

Julia Conley

Progressive lawmakers and immigrant rights advocates in the United Kingdom on Thursday into Friday applauded an impromptu show of solidarity in Glasgow, Scotland which forced immigration enforcement agents to release two men after they attempted to detain them in a dawn raid during Eid al-Fitr.

According to The Guardian, U.K. Immigration Enforcement agents detained the men in the Glasgow neighborhood of Pollokshields early on Thursday morning, leading about 200 of their neighbors to quickly mobilize and demand the men's release.

At least one man sat in the street behind the vehicle, while another lay beneath the van to prevent the agents from pulling away.

As soon as he received a message from a neighbor about the raid, Declan Blench told The Guardian, "I put my shoes on and sprinted out. I just thought: 'You're not going to do that in front of me.' There is due process and this is not it."

"Nothing is more beautiful than solidarity," Member of Parliament Zarah Sultana said on social media, where she posted a video of the two refugees being released.

Many others also celebrated the community action on social media.

The community members surrounded the van, chanting, "Refugees are welcome here" and "These are our neighbors, let them go!"

Hundreds of residents devoted the entire day to making sure the men were released safely before police officers arrived and ordered they be allowed to return home "in order to protect the safety, public health, and well-being of those involved in the detention and subsequent protest."

Human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar was among the residents who demanded the men's release, and spoke to them directly in their native Punjabi during the ordeal. 

"I said to them: 'You're free because of the people of Glasgow,' and pointed to the crowd behind me," Anwar told The Guardian. 

According to the outlet, the immigration status of the two men was unknown. Their attempted arrest followed the second dawn raid in Glasgow in a month in an apparent "escalation of the U.K.’s hostile environment policy," under which Conservative government leaders aim to "make life difficult for migrants living in the U.K."

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, whose Scottish National Party has called for the country to have control over its own immigration policies and enforcement, condemned the U.K. Home Office for carrying out the raid during the Muslim festival marking the end of Ramadan.

"To act in this way, in the heart of a Muslim community as they celebrated Eid, and in an area experiencing a Covid outbreak was a health and safety risk," said Sturgeon in a statement. "I will be demanding assurances from the U.K. government that they will never again create, through their actions, such a dangerous situation."

Sturgeon also praised the Pollokshields community on Twitter.

Glasgow residents have long opposed dawn immigration raids, and have recently witnessed the U.K. Home Office relocating refugees to cramped hotel rooms where social distancing was impossible during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Regardless of the immigration status of those targeted today, this heavy-handed approach from the Home Office is unnecessary and avoidable," Wafa Shaheen of the Scottish Refugee Council told The Guardian. "It is frightening, intimidating, and disproportionate. The hundreds of people on the streets this morning in solidarity with those affected shows people in Scotland are sick of these raids and have had enough."


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