Blame for the actions which sparked a protest against immigration detentions in Glasgow lies squarely with the Home Office, Scotland’s Justice Secretary claimed.
Police released two men who had been detained by Border Force officials in Glasgow after people surrounded the van they were being held in and prevented it from leaving on Thursday.
Demonstrators blocked the immigration enforcement van for several hours in Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, with one even lying underneath the vehicle, before a senior Police Scotland officer decided to release the detained men on public safety grounds.
During an urgent questions session in the Scottish Parliament on Friday, SNP Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf was asked about the Scottish Government response and its engagement with the UK Home Office – which is responsible for immigration.
Mr Yousaf said he and the First Minister had spent a significant amount of time on Thursday speaking to the officials and Police Scotland to find a safe solution.
He said: “The actions of the Home Office yesterday were at best, utterly incompetent, at worst intended to provoke.
“Either way they were completely unacceptable.”
He said Police Scotland had been placed in an “invidious” position, and he had urged the Home Office to abandon the forced removal.
The Justice Secretary said it had been reckless to take the action during an upsurge of Covid cases in Glasgow, as well as during the festival of Eid.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and Lib Dems also criticised the Home Office.
Mr Yousaf said police did not routinely accompany Border Force agents to forced removals, but would attend when called out.
He added: “The blame for yesterday’s actions lies squarely on the shoulders of the Home Office and the reckless action they took in the heart of Scotland’s Muslim community.”
Scottish Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie, who raised the protests in parliament on Friday, said: “I would hope that it won’t take as long in future to ensure that releasing people in such a circumstance is the right call.”
Mr Yousaf also said the government’s advice was for people to avoid large gatherings due to Covid-19, following reports of events planned in Glasgow over the weekend.
Earlier, one of the organisers of the protest spoke to the PA news agency about its success in freeing the detained men, who are both Indian nationals.
“The UK Government is tackling illegal immigration and the harm it causes.”
– Home Office spokeswoman.
Mohammad Asif, director of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation, said he texted hundreds of people encouraging them to join the protest.
He said: “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.”
He added: “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.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said on Thursday: “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.”