Hundreds of residents surrounded the Border Agency van in Glasgow to try to prevent immigration officers from removing the men.
Two Indians detained by British Border Force officials on suspicion of immigration offences in the Scottish city of Glasgow have been released after residents swarmed the street for eight hours to block their van from leaving, according to media reports.
The two were released on bail pending further investigation.
Hundreds of residents had surrounded the Border Agency van in the Pollokshields area of Glasgow to try to prevent immigration officers from removing the men. One person lay underneath the van, The Independent reported.
The protesters chanted “Leave our neighbours, let them go” and “Cops go home” being heard as a ring of police stood around the van, local Scottish newspapers said.
Officers said they were freeing the men for the safety of everyone involved following a stand-off in Glasgow.
The protest prompted Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon to accuse the Home Office of creating “a dangerous and unacceptable situation”.
“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 and immigration policy,” she said.
She said she would be “demanding assurances” from the U.K. government that they would not create such a dangerous situation again.
“No assurances were given – and frankly no empathy shown – when I managed to speak to a junior minister earlier,” she said.
Three protesters were arrested, according to the No Evictions Network campaign group.
Announcing the men’s release, Police Scotland said in a statement: “In order to protect the safety, public health and well-being of all people involved in the detention and subsequent protest in Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, Chief Superintendent Mark Sutherland has, following a suitable risk assessment, taken the operational decision to release the men detained by U.K. Immigration Enforcement back into their community meantime.”
“In order to facilitate this quickly and effectively, Police Scotland is asking members of the public to disperse from the street as soon as possible,” it said in a statement on Twitter.
One of the men, Lakhvir Singh, 34, said : “I’ve been astonished and overwhelmed by the support I’ve received from the people of Glasgow.”
“At around 9.30 a.m. immigration enforcement carried out a raid and we were taken to security in the van. There were only five or six people at the time but word spread and then there were crowds of hundreds,” he said.
“We are so grateful for the support,” he was quoted by The Independent newspaper as saying.
Scotland’s justice secretary, Humza Yousaf, asked to speak to U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel about the events.
“I have asked to speak to the Home Secretary to gain further details & make clear just how unacceptable this situation is,” he tweeted.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The U.K. 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 U.K.”
“The operation in Glasgow was conducted in relation to suspected immigration offences, and the two Indian nationals complied with officers at all times,” the spokesperson said.
“The U.K. 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 U.K. illegally,” the spokesperson was quoted by BBC News Scotland as saying.
Police Scotland insisted the force did not assist in the removal of asylum-seekers, and that officers were there to police the protest and to ensure public safety.
The Sikhs in Scotland group said in a statement that it was “deeply concerned”, and urged the Home Office to “abandon forced removals and to adopt an immigration policy based on human rights, compassion and dignity”.
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