United Kingdom

Charity threatens legal action against Home Office after officials tried to deport asylum seekers

A migrant charity has threatened legal action against the Home Office after officials arrested and tried to deport two Indian asylum seekers in Glasgow.  

Lakhvir Singh, 34, says officers sent by the Home Office 'barged' into his Glasgow flat yesterday at around 10am and arrested him and his friend Sumit Sehdevi on suspicion of immigration offences having lived in the UK without leave to remain for ten years.

As 'word spread', hundreds of people then flooded into Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, surrounding the police van and stopping it from leaving, with locals saying Mr Singh and Mr Sehdevi were popular members of the local Sikh Gurdwara temple where the friends also worked feeding the homeless.  

Demonstrators blocked the vehicle for several hours, with one even lying underneath its axles, before police released the pair on public safety grounds.

Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has blamed the Home Office for its 'reckless action', while First Minister Nicola Sturgeon attacked its 'appalling asylum and immigration policy'.

Mr Singh and Mr Sehdev, both aged in their 30s and reportedly a mechanic and chef respectively, have lived in the UK for several years and are 'part of a community', said refugee and migrant charity Positive Action in Housing.

Lakhvir Singh (left) and Sumit Sehdevi (right) were detained and then released after a Home Office raid in Glasgow

As 'word spread', hundreds of people then flooded into Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, surrounding the police van and stopping it from leaving, with locals saying Mr Singh and Mr Sehdevi were popular members of the local Sikh Gurdwara temple where the friends also worked feeding the homeless. Pictured, the men were released

The charity's director Robina Qureshi said: 'The Home Office have referred to these men as illegal. Well they are wrong, and we are now investigating legal action against the Home Office for casting such aspersions. The term illegal in this context is part of the hostile environment. It's not appropriate to use it for people who have lived in the UK for several years and are part of a community.

'The men now have legal representation and are in the process of trying to regularise their status. The fact that they had no active legal representation before means they were left vulnerable.'

Jelina Berlow Rahman, a lawyer instructed to represent Mr Singh, said he has been in the country since 2008 and 'has a right to a private life, a family life'.

She added: 'It was evident the number of people who came together, that was his community, that was neighbours, that was his friends - the majority of people knew him.'

Ms Qureshi added: 'Dawn raid vans have no place going into communities dragging innocent people from their homes. They are not, categorically not, criminals.'

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.

On Thursday, a spokeswoman said: 'The UK Government is tackling illegal immigration and the harm it causes, often to the most vulnerable people, by removing those with no right to be in the UK.

'The operation in Glasgow was conducted in relation to suspected immigration offences and the two Indian nationals complied with officers at all times.

'The UK Government continues to tackle illegal migration in all its forms and our New Plan for Immigration will speed up the removal of those who have entered the UK illegally.'

At around 5pm yesterday the police relented, and released the two suspects, to cheers from the crowd. Thanking their supporters, Mr Singh, 34, speaking through a translator, told ITN yesterday: 'I was taken unannounced from my flat, they barged in and took me into the van.

Jelina Berlow Rahman, a lawyer instructed to represent Mr Singh, said he has been in the country since 2008 and 'has a right to a private life, a family life'. Pictured, the men are escorted away from the crowds by police officers

Lakhvir Singh (centre in white) and Sumit Sehdev (behind him waving) both raised their arms as they are released by police following a huge stand-off with protesters in Glasgow

'I was anxious and upset wondering how I would be treated at the detention centre. I'm so happy that my fate brought me here to live in Glasgow where the people are so connected that they'll come out into the streets to help one of their own.

'I've been astonished and overwhelmed by the support I've received from the people of Glasgow. It's the happiest feeling. Thank you very much.' Mr Singh added: 'There were only five or six people at the time but word spread and then there were crowds of hundreds. We are so grateful for the support.' 

The incident also sparked an unlikely row as the favourite to take over Britain's largest trade union, Howard Beckett, was suspended by Labour and allegedly reported to the police for a hate crime after he called for Priti Patel to be deported. 

The Prime Minister's spokesman said the raid had been entirely legal and correct and 'not linked to Eid in any way', but campaigners accused the Home Office of acting 'like the mafia' and treating the two asylum seekers like rapists or murderers. 

Protestors surround an Immigration Enforcement van to stop it from departing after individuals were detained in Glasgow

There were wild celebrations when both men were freed and allowed to return home after seven hours 

Mohammad Asif told the PA news agency: 'People are fed up with a climate of fear... it was the people's revolution, led by the people - ordinary people of Glasgow in Pollokshields.'

Hard-left 'hard man' Howard Beckett who says socialism is his religion is still tipped to become Unite general secretary

Left-wing firebrand Howard Beckett, 52, is the clear favourite to win the Unite election and replace his friend 'Red Len' McCluskey, who will stand down later this year.

The Northern Irish born lawyer is viewed by many as a tough guy at the top of the union, and is currently Assistant General Secretary for Politics & Legal. 

Born in Belfast, his father had converted to Catholicism after meeting Beckett's mother who had fled one of Ireland's Magdalene laundries. 

But despite his parents' faith, friends say he disavowed religion - apart from socialism - and was a huge supporter of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.

Recently he lumped in Sir Keir Starmer with Boris Johnson, and will be a thorn in the side of the Labour leader if he takes control of Unite. He would have preferred Rebecca Long-Bailey to have won the leadership.

Beckett declared on Twitter: 'Boris Johnson & Keir Starmer, I have a message for you both. We won't stand idly by while you dump the pandemic fall out on the working class'.

His critics have said his previous conduct us a cause for concern. He was fined £5,000 in 2009 by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, when his law firm deducted fees from money for victims of industrial injuries, including lung disease. 

Mr Asif, 54, director of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation, joined the protest from 10am until the men's release shortly after 5pm.

Asked what message the protest's success sends, Mr Asif said: 'The Home Office shouldn't act like the mafia, they should have a more humane way of removing people.

'We don't say every person should come to the UK and live here, but we've been watching these dawn raids - myself for the past 20 years.

'The Home Office does it in a very brutal way... it's like you've committed murder or rape - there are different ways to remove people without taking them from their bed.'

Huge crowds cheered and applauded yesterday when the two Indian men, initially detained by Border Force officials in the van, were eventually released by police following a stand-off with hundreds of protesters. 

Howard Beckett, a Northern Irish socialist lawyer and who is running to succeed Len McCluskey as general secretary of Unite, was widely condemned for his tweet that he stood-by then deleted after 30 minutes.

In a message posted on Twitter on Thursday, the Jeremy Corbyn supporter who says socialism is his religion, was accused of racism and sounding more like a far-right fascist, when he called for the Home Secretary, Britain's most senior ethnic minority politician, to be kicked out of the UK.

The tweet, in response to an attempt to deport the two asylum seekers in Glasgow, read: 'Priti Patel should be deported, not refugees. She can go along with anyone else who supports institutional racism. She is disgusting.'

Beckett initially refused to back down, before deleting the message and apologising. But it prompted an immediate backlash, with social media users telling Mr Beckett it was 'racist' and warning his remark 'sounded like the BNP'.   

Locals had surrounded the enforcement vehicle on Thursday afternoon, with some sitting on the road in front of it, and one even laying underneath it, as part of a demonstration against an earlier immigration raid.

Around 200 protesters were at the scene, with chants of 'Leave our neighbours, let them go' and 'Cops go home' being heard as a ring of police stood around the van, before the men were eventually released. 

The mid-morning forced removal saw the two young men taken from a top-floor flat by Home Office officials. Authorities say they were detained on suspicion of immigration offences before being released on bail pending further investigation.

Footage posted to social media then captured the moment they stepped out of the van, surrounded by dozens of officers. Campaigners hailed their release as a victory for Glaswegian solidarity and insisted officials had 'messed with the wrong city'.

Howard Beckett (centre) is running to succeed Len McCluskey as general secretary of Unite, but has been suspended by Labour

Beckett called Priti Patel (pictured) 'disgusting' in the tweet which has been roundly criticised

This is the moment both men were freed from Home Office immigration van after mass protests in Glasgow Thursday

Mr Beckett then also weighed in, but his comments have since sparked a huge backlash. Sky News reports that he has been reported to the police for a hate crime.  Meanwhile he has also been suspended from the labour Party for his outburst. 

Gurinder Singh Josan, a member of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee who is also a Unite member, tweeted: 'Howard showing his true colours? 

'I totally disagree on pretty much everything with Priti Patel but this is simply dog whistle racism against a woman of colour. Delete this now!'

Mr Beckett initially refused to back down, arguing that his tweet was 'about society being able to do without anyone who promotes racism'. 

However, he removed it last night, writing: 'I'm very sorry for my earlier tweet. I was angry to see Muslim refugees being deported on the morning of Eid Al Fitr.'

It is understood neither of the men involved in the situation in Glasgow are Muslim.

Miss Patel was born in London after her parents came to Britain from Uganda in the 1960s. Mr Beckett is the closest lieutenant to the outgoing Mr McCluskey and is currently assistant general secretary.   

Speaking about the incident in Glasgow, Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the Home Office's actions had been 'reckless'.

Saying that immigration was a reserved issue, he tweeted: 'Situation should never have occurred - the UK Govt's hostile environment is not welcome here'.

He added: 'I abhor Home Office immigration policy at the best of times, but to have taken the action they have today is at best completely reckless, and at worst intended to provoke.'

However, a source close to Miss Patel condemned the actions of the demonstrators, claiming: 'It is completely unacceptable for a mob to stop the lawful removal of people living in our country illegally.

'This government 100% backs the frontline in removing those with no right to be here.' 

Two men are released from the back of an Immigration Enforcement van accompanied by lawyer Aamer Anwar and Mohammad Asif, director of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation, in Kenmure Street, Glasgow

A huge ring of police officers surrounded the two men as they were released and walked away from the immigration van

Police escort two men (white jacket & grey hoodie), who were detained by Immigration officials, away from a van after crowds stop it from departing

Two men are released from the back of an Immigration Enforcement van following a huge demonstration in Glasgow Thursday

Dozens of police officers surround the two men as they are released from custody following a huge stand-off in Glasgow

Police officers are pictured entering an immigration van on Kenmure Street, in the Pollokshields area of Glasgow, which is surrounded by protesters in a bid to stop the deportation of their neighbours

Demonstrators sit in front of police by an immigration van in Glasgow. Police were called to the street where it is understood protesters were trying to prevent immigration officers from removing people from a property

A line of police officers wearing face masks stand next to an immigration van which is surrounded by protesters. Around 200 protesters are at the scene, with chants of 'leave our neighbours, let them go' and 'cops go home' being heard

Police stand in a line with their arms crossed next to the immigration enforcement van. Glasgow MSP Alison Thewliss wrote: 'This is absolutely awful, but heartened to see local residents in Pollokshields standing up for their neighbours'

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she is 'deeply concerned' about the incident 'in the heart of a community celebrating Eid', adding: 'My office is making urgent enquiries and stands ready to offer any necessary assistance to those detained'

Nicola Sturgeon says Home Office needs to reflect after Glasgow detentions spark protests

Nicola Sturgeon has said the Home Office needs to ask 'itself hard questions' after mass protests took place over the detention of men in Glasgow.

In response to the scenes, the First Minister tweeted: 'The Home Office needs to ask itself hard questions after today.

'Doing this on Eid, in the heart of our Muslim community, and in the midst of a serious Covid outbreak was staggeringly irresponsible - but the even deeper problem is an appalling asylum & immigration policy.'

It is understood neither of the men is Muslim.

Home Office launches EU settlement scheme campaign as deadline approaches 

The Home Office has launched a new information campaign urging EU citizens living in the UK to apply for its settlement scheme as soon as possible. 

EU citizens have a deadline of June 30 to apply for settled status. This will afford them legal status to carry on living and working in the UK now the Brexit transition period and freedom of movement has ended.

The latest figures show 5.4million applications have been made to the scheme, with more than 4.9 million grants of status. There were 4.88million applications from England, 268,500 from Scotland, 89,800 from Wales and 88,600 from Northern Ireland.

The campaign launched on Thursday aims to make sure that EU citizens and their family members are aware of the deadline and know they need to apply, with adverts appearing on social media, TV and radio. So far, £8million has been spent on communication around the EU settlement scheme.

Immigration minister Kevin Foster said: 'Every day, thousands of people are being granted status under the hugely successful EU settlement scheme and I would urge people who are eligible to apply as soon as possible to secure the status they deserve in UK law.

'This new campaign will help us encourage those who need to apply to act now before the June 30 deadline. 

'The Government is committed to making sure everybody eligible for the scheme can apply, including those who are the most vulnerable or need extra support.'  

A Home Office spokesperson said: 'The UK Government is tackling illegal immigration and the harm it causes, often to the most vulnerable people by removing those with no right to be in the UK. 

'The operation in Glasgow was conducted in relation to suspected immigration offences and the two Indian nationals complied with officers at all times.

'The UK Government continues to tackle illegal migration in all its forms and our New Plan for Immigration will speed up the removal of those who have entered the UK illegally.' 

A Police Scotland statement said Superintendent Mark Sutherland had decided to release the detained men 'in order to protect the safety, public health and wellbeing of those involved in the detention and subsequent protest'.

The force asked those nearby to disperse from the area as soon as possible.

A spokeswoman said earlier: 'Police Scotland does not assist in the removal of asylum seekers. Officers are at the scene to police the protest and to ensure public safety.'   

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said earlier she was 'deeply concerned' about the incident 'in the heart of a community celebrating Eid'.

Ms Sturgeon, who was sworn in on Thursday as MSP for Glasgow Southside, added: 'My office is making urgent enquiries and stands ready to offer any necessary assistance to those detained.'

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said he was 'disgusted by the Home Office raids'.

He tweeted: 'It is particularly unacceptable that this is happening during a pandemic, in an area that has a spike in cases and on the day of Eid.'   

Ms Sturgeon also accused the Home Office of creating 'a dangerous and unacceptable situation' in the city.

She wrote on Twitter: 'The @ukhomeoffice action today is creating a dangerous and unacceptable situation in Pollokshields. As local MSP, I am also seeking urgent answers from them - they must resolve this situation ASAP.'

Glasgow Central MSP Alison Thewliss added: 'This is absolutely awful, but heartened to see local residents in Pollokshields standing up for their neighbours and refusing to accept the brutality of the UK Home Office. 

'I am taking this matter up with Ministers. Not in our name.' 

Co-leader of the Scottish Greens, Patrick Harvie, wrote: 'It's horrific that people are forced to take such action to defend their most vulnerable neighbours from the brutality of the UK Home Office.

'We need an asylum system worthy of the name, and asylum support provided to a standard our communities can be proud of.' 

Imagery shared on social media showed a refreshments stall has been set up in a nearby bus stop on Kenmure Street for protesters.

Another video shows a man placing a sign outside his window on the street which reads: 'If this is Team UK we reject it.'

Lawyer Aamer Anwar tweeted: 'What a cynical provocative & disgusting move, on the day of #Eid @policescotland are assisting @pritipatel Home Office immigration in enforcement raid- as people of Pollokshields turn out. These are our neighbours. Let them go.' 

A Police Scotland spokesman said: 'At around 9.55am this morning, police were called to support colleagues at the UK Border Agency at an address in Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, Glasgow. 

A person places themselves underneath the immigration enforcement van which was stopped by protesters in Glasgow

A man holds a sign out of a window reading 'if this is team UK we reject it' above police officers guarding the immigration van

Police and demonstrators seen near an immigration van in Kenmure Street, Glasgow, which was surrounded by protesters 

Police warn people away from the direction of an immigration enforcement van which had been surrounded by protesters

Police restrain protesters who blocked a Home Office van to stop it from leaving Kenmure Street in Ms Sturgeon's constitency

Police officers and protesters are seen wearing face masks near the immigration van on Kenmure Street in Glasgow

Demonstrators pictured in front of an immigration van on Kenmure Street in Glasgow. A Police Scotland spokesman said: 'At around 9.55am this morning, police were called to support colleagues at the UK Border Agency'

Remote hearings allow for post-deportation appeals, High Court judge rules

Improvements in technology mean people who have been deported can 'reasonably' bring their appeals from abroad, a High Court judge has said.

Yusuf Arman and a second unrelated man, known as GY, are Turkish citizens who had spent decades in the UK, but were deported in 2017 following multiple criminal convictions.

The men each made human rights claims to remain in the country but, after they were rejected and they were deported, both have launched appeals.

Both men asked the High Court for permission to review whether it was lawful that they were deported before their appeals were heard, meaning they had to bring their cases remotely.

Non-citizens convicted of crimes can be deported before their appeal is heard or determined, as long as it is not a breach of their human rights. 

In a decision on Thursday, Mr Justice Mostyn said that while the Supreme Court's decision was 'almost inevitable' due to the poor quality of the IT equipment used in the courts service in 2017, conditions were now different.

He said: 'The necessity of most civil and family hearings to be conducted remotely while the virus has rampaged has been the mother, not so much of the invention, but of an accelerated evolution of practice and procedure bringing the law into the digital age.'  

'A number of protesters are now at the location. Officers are at the scene and inquiries are continuing.'

Police later added: 'The call was made by UK Immigration Enforcement (UKIE) after a group of protesters gathered at the address where UKIE staff were in attendance.

'Police Scotland does not assist in the removal of asylum seekers. 

'Officers are at the scene to police the protest and to ensure public safety.'

Mohammad Asif, director of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation, was one of what he said were hundreds of neighbours protesting against the action. 

The 54-year-old said: 'We're here against the hostile environment created by the Tories and the British state.

'The same people who run from the British and American bombs put at the back of the van right now. And they are about to be deported.

'And it's on Eid you know… the guys are not even allowed to pray. How do you do that in a democratic society? It's a sad day.'

Mr Asif, who left Afghanistan as a refugee himself in 2000, said the atmosphere amongst the protesters is peaceful.

Sabir Zazai, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, wrote: 'Not close to the details on this but this is shocking, disgraceful and racist if people are raided by enforcement officers amidst the pandemic on the day of #Eid.'

Lotte, an artist and member of the Scottish tenants union Living Rent, lives on a street nearby and joined the protest when she saw a small group outside the property on Kenmure Street at 10am on Thursday.

The 26-year-old said: 'I'd like to express my utter disgust at the brutal removal of my neighbours from their home.

'It is an awful thing to do on any day, but today being Eid makes it 10 times worse. I hope they will let our neighbours go.

'Police are surrounding the Home Office van... they are refusing to answer questions about whether they have access to legal representation.

'They claim that they don't know anything about the deportation and are just 'protecting the Home Office'.'

Protesters hold up placards reading 'migrants and refugees welcome here' as they block an immigration enforcement van

Protesters block a UK Home Office van to stop it from leaving Kenmure Street in First Minister Ms Sturgeon's constituency

Police officers stood in a row in front of the immigration enforcement van. Mr Asif, who left Afghanistan as a refugee himself in 2000, said the atmosphere amongst the protesters is peaceful

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