Sunday, March 21, 2010

From Russia to death in Glasgow

WE have heard a lot in recent years about wealthy Russians moving to Britain, sending their kids through expensive public (i.e.private) schools and laundering their money through the City of London, and buying big houses, jewellery, football clubs and newspapers. No problems about being a "small, overcrowded island", or protecting "our culture", any more than questions about how their wealth was acquired.

We recently heard about some different Russians. But we did not hear much. Just imagined the thud of their bodies hitting the ground. Neighbours on the Glasgow scheme did hear the screams as Sergei Serykh, his wife Tatiana and their 21-year-old son fell from the 15th floor of a tower block at 8:45 a.m. on a Sunday morning. All three were killed instantly.

The family had recently been told by the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) their asylum claim had been rejected. They had been asked to leave their high rise accommodation in the city’s Red Road flats. Facing deportation or, at the very least, destitution consequent to failure to make it through the UK’s asylum machinery, the family concluded that their situation was beyond hope.

People did show sympathy, holding a vigil at the foot of the tower block in the Springburn district. Among those attending, besides local residents, current and former asylum seekers and civil rights campaigners, was ten-year-old Precious Mhango. Precious and her mother Florence have recently won the right to a judicial review of the UKBA’s decision to deport them to Malawi.

One man attending the vigil told the BBC, “We feel afraid from the Home Office. Everybody is afraid. Today all asylum seekers are here to pay tribute to the three people who died. Everybody is worried about their own situations as well. If I go back to Pakistan I will be killed.”

Robina Qureshi, for the rights organisation Positive Action for Housing, called for a public enquiry into the circumstances around the Red Road deaths. “We want to know what role the UKBA played,” Quereshi said. “In particular, we want to know: did the UKBA recently communicate with the three victims over their asylum case? Were officials knocking at the door of the three suicide victims at 63 Petershill Drive, Springburn on Sunday morning when the suicides took place?”

The Glasgow site is one of several to which asylum seekers are dispersed throughout Britain, usually places with poor employment prospects or local amenities. The 20 storey blocks of flats at Springburn are half-empty and due to be demolished. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work here legally, in any case, yet they can also be cut off from benefits if their application is unsuccessful, and put in detention centres pending deportation. Only a tiny minority of applicants are accepted for refugee status.

Suicides are not uncommon. The National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns says at least 55 asylum seekers have taken their own lives since 2000. In Glasgow in 2006, Zamira Sadigova jumped out of an 11th floor flat. She was killed as police were breaking down the door to section her under the Mental Health Act. The following year, also in Glasgow, Uddav Bhandari, from Nepal, doused himself in petrol and set himself alight in the offices of the Immigration Tribunal. He died shortly after.

Unlike the shocked neighbours who showed their sympathy at the Russian family's death, MPs and media appeared indifferent or defended the asylum system, saying it had to work properly in judging cases. Tom Harris MP said. “You can’t make that judgment a hostage on the basis of threats by the individuals to take their own lives.”

Melanie Reid, a Times columnist. Reid described Sergei and his family as “members of the vast tribe of lost souls who swirl around the world, their past unverifiable, their present precarious, their future uncertain.” But she insisted, “In asylum policy emotion must never replace hard facts. Britain cannot be the world’s social worker, and we must acknowledge that some people in this twilight world are beyond help and that their deaths should not lie on our conscience.”

Thanks to Steve James and the World Socialist News Network for their report on this tragedy.

And here is another angle and further information from Tony Greenstein, of Brighton Unemployed Centre
You won't have read about it in our 'free' press, because it hasn't been reported. And anyway asylum seekers occupy a position not that much different to that of Blacks in the United States in the era of segregation, who were considered 2/5 of a human being.

But last week three asylum seekers, living in slum accommodation administered by the YMCA in Glasgow, took their own lives. They had received a decision turning down their application for asylum and the YMCA had been preparing their eviction.

And to top it all, a young Afghani refugee also living at the same bloc, attended a demonstration in commemoration of this family. As he attended the YMCA pulled the same trick - they cleared out his room and threw all his belongings in the rubbish bin.

The YMCA has been well known for its addiction to mammon. It takes money for workfare schemes that the government runs, i.e. work for your dole and from New Labour to 'house' asylum seekers. A lucrative business it must be, if at times a little unpleasant for these collaborators with Britain's persecution of asylum seekers.
Tony Greenstein



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