Over a hundred people came out on a rainy Monday afternoon yesterday to protest against the ‘Go Home’ posters that are being piloted in the UKBA registration centre in Brand Street, Glasgow. As previously reported on the Migrant Voice blog, these posters are part of a campaign that is being piloted in Hounslow, London and in Glasgow. The posters are being displayed in the UKBA registration centre and read ‘Is life hard here? Going home is simple’ echoing the language of the ‘Go home’ van (also known as the #racistvan) that has caused controversy this summer and indeed, of National Front campaigns in the 1970s. These words are super-imposed on a picture of a destitute person lying on some cardboard. The posters are also accompanied by stickers on seats that read ‘ask about going home’.
The pilot campaign has already had an adverse impact on those using the registration centre. An article in The Herald has described how victims of torture have sought specialist support to help them cope with the campaign reporting: ‘The organisation Freedom From Torture, which works regularly in Glasgow with 170 clients from countries including Syria, Iran, and Iraq, says clients report an increase in nightmares and physical manifestations of trauma.’
Speakers at the demonstration included members of campaigning, activist and religious organisations alongside Trade Unions and councillors from the SNP and the Green Party.
Iain Chisholm from Positive Action in Housing said: ‘ The Home Office’s own guidance says that they have a duty of care to the people that come to them but this uses people’s vulnerability against them… It is bullying everyone who goes into the centre, no matter what stage they are at in the asylum process.’
Norman MacLeod, SNP Councillor for Pollokshield stressed that Scotland has a history of outward migration and was thus a welcoming country: ‘If you want to come and live and work and contribute to the country of Scotland, we want you here, there’s plenty of space.’ He went on to say that this wasn’t just an economic but a moral imperative: ‘Scottish folk have been welcome throughout the world for the past 200-300 years, it ill-beholds us to stop people who want to come and make their lives here.’ Green Party councillor, Nina Baker, echoed this welcome: ‘Glasgow is a welcoming city. It will take any one to its heart that will love Glasgow back… The only people we don’t welcome is UKBA’
Trade Union representatives, including representatives from the FBU (John McFadden) and Unison (Jim Main) condemned the posters as being part of the Westminster Government’s divide and rule strategy.
Joyce Drummond from Solidarity called the UKBA registration centre ‘a stain on the conscience of Scotland’.
Margaret Woods from Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees gave an impassioned speech, referring back to the posters: ‘Is life hard here? Of course. The Government treat people like criminals …. There are wars that we can do very little about but we do know that we can help the refugees and the refugees can help us.’
Samuel Yerokun from Association of African Communities in Renfrewshire said that the poster was the Home Office pushing aside its responsibilities. He spoke of the good work that such posters undermined, concluding: We cannot accept this. The posters have to come down.’
Perhaps the last word should go to Jock Morris, also from ‘Glasgow Campaign to welcome refugees’. He pointed to the Home Office claim that the posters are only giving out information. In that case he asked, why isn’t there a twin poster saying ‘Are you fleeing persecution? Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place.’