The suicide of three Russian asylum seekers has aroused the indignation of the local community in Springburn. A mother, father and stepson jumped from the fifteenth floor of a tower bloc in the Red Road flats in Springburn, Glasgow. This followed the rejection of their asylum application, with the family having been instructed to leave the flats in Springburn following this.
As well as highlighting the brutal and inhuman nature of the asylum system in this country the case also in particular raises questions about provision for such vulnerable people at the Red Road Flats. These flats have been leased to the YMCA since February to house asylum seekers, yet it seems there is little in the way of assistance for the mental wellbeing of those who live there, including both asylum seekers and those with refugee status. Many have experienced the brutality of war and persecution. The fact that the British state has not only stepped up a racist campaign of housing asylum seekers in poor conditions and brutally interning many before forcing them to endure a potentially fatal deportation but has also privatised parts of the process stands out as one of the worst abuses of the capitalist system.
The response of the local community has been swift and a categorical defence of human dignity in the face of the scandalous treatment of asylum seekers. The day after the event over one hundred people attended a vigil called for by the charity Positive Action in Housing which is involved in campaigning for better conditions for asylum seekers. Its director Robina Qureshi said that “People are gathering here for a vigil and to remember that three people that died here. Basically they are showing solidarity that they are also scared and frightened by the threat of immigration removal vans coming to pick them up at any time.” (BBC News 9/3/10)
This was followed by a demonstration on Saturday March 13th that saw around one thousand people march from the flats into the city centre. Asylum seekers, those with refugee status, other people from the flats and the wider local community were joined by trade unionists and students in marching to defend the rights of refugees to come to Britain. The march ended with a rally which included a speaker from the STUC who quite rightly argued that trade unionists have a long tradition of defending the rights of those fleeing persecution and stated that the labour movement’s motto of “an injury to one is an injury to all” need to encompass defending the rights of refugees. In arguing for the right of complete freedom of movement for all people we must remember that ultimately it is capitalism and its imperialist wars which has created not only the situation of international humanitarian crisis but also the emigration system which often threats those who suffer its worst abuses as little better than animals. One of the chants heard throughout the demonstration was "we belong to Glasgow" we must defend the rights of all people to live and work where they wish.