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PRISONERS IN THE TOWER; Glasgow’s hidden shame of the ‘mini Dungavel’

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CAMPAIGNERS today hit out at a charity for “segregating” asylum seekers in a tower block hostel in Glasgow. Politicians, refugee groups and housing activists have condemned plans to uproot dozens of settled families in the city and move them into a 29-storey block in Springburn, which is run by YMCA Glasgow. One city MSP branded the tower block hostel a “miniDungavel” – a reference to the detention centre in Lanarkshire. City council bosses this week suspended plans to move asylum seekers from Pollokshaws to the high-rise property following a major community campaign. Now the charity, which has taken over part of the city’s asylum contract, has come under fire for creating a “ghetto” in the north of Glasgow. The YMCA base has only four washing machines to serve the entire block’s 200 refugees, and families are denied phonelines in their rooms. Margaret Woods, organiser of Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, said: “There’s no place for ghettos in Glasgow. The YMCA tower block is not an acceptable building. “There are no circumstances under which a hostel housing only refugees is an acceptable situation in this city.” The high-rise in Petershill Drive, Springburn, which is leased from Glasgow Housing Association, already houses around 200 asylum seekers. Housing officers from the charity sparked widespread concern last month by giving up to 50 families in Pollokshaws a week’s notice to quit their homes and move to Springburn. Many of the families have lived in the south side for five years and faced having to remove their children from school this summer. But the city council has stepped in and suspended all moves for three months in a bid to keep the families in the Pollokshaws area. City MSP Sandra White said: “There may be no barbed wire or security guards but Petershill Drive is a mini-Dungavel. “We’ve had some positive news but there’s no guarantee that families in the south side won’t be moved into this hostel.” YMCA Glasgow and the Angel Group, a private housing contractor, were awarded 19-per cent of Glasgow’s accommodation contract for asylum seekers earlier this year. There are around 5800 asylum seekers in Glasgow living in 2000 households, so the new providers will be responsible for housing roughly 400 families. Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan said: “Glasgow should be extending the hand of friendship to these people. “The fact is that asylum seekers are placed in housing no-one else wants to live in. “They take pride in their homes and look after their families. There are no better neighbours than asylum seekers and they should be treated with respect.” Robina Qureshi, director of Glasgow charity Positive Action In Housing, said: “There are major questions to be asked about the YMCA’s role in this. “How much money are they receiving for re-housing these asylum seekers? “The council’s announcement was a good result but we have to keep going.” Bill Speirs, general secretary of the Scottish TUC, said: “It is outrageous that asylum seekers in Glasgow are being rounded up and concentrated in one building. “It is particularly sad that the YMCA, is facilitating this by providing the premises for a price.” Campaigners, including Scotland’s biggest teaching union, the EIS, objected to the plan to move the families. Officials said pupils and teachers were “deeply distressed” at the prospect of children being abruptly removed from schools. The Angel Group has been asked to source properties over the summer to ensure the families can stay within a three-mile radius of their current homes. Councillor Irene Graham, the city council’s equalities spokeswoman, said: “Our ultimate aim is now to re-house as many families in the local area as possible.” A spokesman for YMCA Glasgow said Petershill Drive was staffed by a team of 28 workers, who provided support around the clock, and the building included a coffee bar, internet cafe, social space and creche, and a women’s group. Shafiq Mohammed, the charity’s refugee services co-ordinator, declined to comment on how much money YMCA Glasgow would receive from the contract. But he said: “‘Ghetto’ is a very disrespectful term. “This area has had a large asylum-seeker community for the last five or six years. We offer fully furnished, three-bedroom flats, which are ideal for families. “The asylum seekers have integrated into the community. “We accept there are areas we have to look at to improve things, but the term ‘ghetto’ is not accurate and is unhelpful.” Bodies which give homes to refugees YMCA Glasgow dates back to 1877 and has neighbourhood centres in Easterhouse, Castlemilk, Drumchapel and Possilpark The charity currently provides accommodation for 180 asylum seekers who are funded by the National Asylum Support Service The organisation employs more than 200 people and runs more than 30 projects across Greater Glasgow, Renfrew, Hamilton, and East Kilbride The Glasgow branch concentrates on helping young people at risk, homeless people, asylum seekers and refugees Backers include the lottery, Children in Need, Lloyds TSB Foundation and the Robertson Trust The Angel Group is contracted to provide 3000 beds for asylum seekers across the country It uses different types of accommodation ranging from residential properties to guesthouses and large hostels The firm has around 10-per cent of Glasgow’s city asylum accommodation contract and also houses asylum seekers in Leeds and Newcastle It scrapped plans to convert an old RAF base near Prestwick Airport into a hostel in 2003

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Written by Concerned

July 3, 2006 at 4:38 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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