Kenmure Street festival chiefs condemn Rwanda’s interior ministry plan
Organizers of a festival celebrating the anniversary of the historic Kenmure Street immigration raid protest have condemned the Home Office’s ‘brutal’ plan to send asylum seekers to Africa.
Ahead of this weekend’s event, Priti Patel insisted she would use ‘every tool and every legislative measure at our disposal’ to deport migrants who have arrived in the UK ‘illegally’.
But on Friday and Saturday in Glasgow’s Southside, activists, charities, politicians and local residents will send a message of solidarity to refugees. Twelve months after the day (May 13) the residents of Pollokshields mobilized in Kemure Street to prevent the Ministry of Interior from evicting their neighbors in a dawn raid, they gather in the same place to demand dignity for all.
Coinciding with efforts by the UK government to move asylum seekers to Rwanda, the chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council said the Festival of Resistance could not come at a more crucial time.
READ MORE: Kenmure Street Anniversary Festival celebrates people power and resistance
Sabir Zazai, who is among the keynote speakers at the event, said: “A year ago, residents of Kenmure Street loudly told the Home Office that their inhumane tactics were not the welcome here. We cannot tolerate a society in which those seeking protection live in fear of being rounded up at dawn in their own homes. This is simply not the kind of society Scots want to live in.
“The Ministry of Interior is now considering using even more brutal tactics and deporting people to Rwanda who are just looking to rebuild their lives in safety. It has never been more important that we stand together as a community, as a society and as a country in the face of these shameful plans, in the spirit of Kenmure Street.
Local residents, schools and charities supporting Scottish Afghan, Syrian and Yemeni communities will be among those gathering for the Kenmure Street festival.
Dishes inspired by the diverse cultures of the city will be served, while Nova Scotian musicians will perform live. There will also be a silent vigil to remember the moment a year ago when the two men held by Home Office officials were released after an eight-hour standoff.
Keynote speakers will include Zazai and human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, as well as Glasgow SNP MP Alison Thewliss, Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie and Labor MP Paul Sweeney.
READ MORE: Migrants will be told they could be sent to Rwanda
The Festival of Resistance is organized with grassroots groups and charities including Govanhill Baths Community Trust, Maryhill Integration Network, Freedom from Torture, Unity Sisters and many more.
Fatima Uygun, Director of Govanhill Baths Community Trust, said: “Above all, we really want to emphasize that no one is illegal. Refugees and asylum seekers deserve to be treated with dignity and given the opportunity to realize their full potential.
“Even though Glasgow is one of the largest centers of refugee dispersal in the UK, the voices of people – especially women – going through this process are largely ignored, silenced by a lack of resources, support and a real fear of being subjected to hostilities and racist measures – such as dawn raids – by the British government.
The defiant comments come after the interior minister doubled down on promises to send asylum seekers to Rwanda – despite major legal, ethical and financial concerns.
Speaking during a visit to the Metropolitan Police Specialist Training Center in Kent, Patel said there were “barriers and hurdles” to overcome, but the government was determined to “remove those who have no legal basis to be in the UK, to Rwanda”.
Aiming again at the legal profession, the Conservative minister accused “specialist lawyers” of being the main obstacle to the establishment of the regime.
Last week the Prime Minister came under fire for ‘attacks’ on lawyers who are ‘just doing their job’ while the government faces legal action over the plans.
Boris Johnson has claimed ‘liberal lawyers’ will try to scupper the deal as Downing Street says flights for the one-way trip to the East African nation may not take place for months, at following criticism and legal challenges.
Mark Fenhalls QC, Chairman of the Bar Council, said: ‘Attacks on men and women simply for doing their job is irresponsible and undermines the rule of law.
Sir Jonathan Jones QC, former head of the government’s legal department and now a senior consultant at law firm Linklaters, said it was ‘not fair to blame lawyers for issuing such challenges – they just serve the best interests of their clients, as they are professionally bound to do”.
The Resistance Festival kicks off Friday, May 13 at 5:30 p.m. with a silent vigil on Kenmure Street.
It continues on Saturday from 12 noon. Other activities will include tree planting, storytelling and art activities for children. It will also coincide with the launch of a new educational resource for teachers, No Radio Silence, a short film and e-book designed to start conversations about Nova Scotia issues.