Cheers as police release men from immigration van after protesters block road

A neighbourhood in Glasgow was celebrating on Thursday night after police released two men detained by Border Force after a demonstration.

Local people had surrounded a removal van to prevent it from leaving, chanting ‘leave our neighbours, let them go’.

The Home Office was blasted by various local and high-profile critics for attempting to remove people, with particular fury being vented at the ‘reckless’ decision to undertake the action on the first day of Eid.

One neighbour compared the decision – branded reckless by a key Scottish minister – to raiding a Christian’s home on Christmas Day, while Nicola Sturgeon also condemned the UK government department.

Around 200 demonstrators in Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, blocked the immigration enforcement van for hours – with one lying underneath the vehicle for hours.

One of the men in the van, Lakhvir Singh, from India, spoke to the PA news agency through a translator.

He said: ‘I’ve been astonished and overwhelmed by the support I’ve received from the people of Glasgow.

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‘At around 9.30am immigration enforcement carried out a raid and we were taken to security in the van.’

The 34-year-old continued: ‘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.’

Tom, a neighbour who joined the protest, compared the immigration operation on Eid to a police raid on Christmas Day.

‘The solidarity shown today shows the community will not stand for their neighbours being dragged from their homes,’ the 31-year-old, who did not want to give his surname, told PA.

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‘I’d ask Christians to reflect on what it would feel like to have your house raided on Christmas Day.’

Shortly after 5pm, Police Scotland released a statement saying the men would be released.

First Minister Ms Sturgeon 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.

Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf branded the actions ‘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.’

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, who left Afghanistan as a refugee himself in 2000, said earlier: ‘We’re here against the hostile environment created by the Tories and the British state.

Ms Sturgeon accused the Home Office of creating ‘a dangerous and unacceptable situation’ with the action.

The First Minister, who represents Glasgow Southside, tweeted earlier: ‘As constituency MSP, I am deeply concerned by this action by the Home Office, especially today in the heart of a community celebrating Eid.’

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.’

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’.

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.’

A Home Office spokeswoman said this evening: ‘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.’

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