I congratulate Jackie Baillie on securing the debate and giving Parliament an opportunity to express our collective anger at an insensitive, callous and ill-thought-out campaign.
Like other members, I have substantial casework consisting of people’s complaints about the go home campaign. When I wrote to Theresa May to ask her to withdraw the campaign, I got a very cavalier response from the UK Minister for Immigration, Mark Harper, who argued that he felt that it was the majority opinion of the British public that the message should be promoted. I think that the Scottish Parliament will today speak out in stark contrast to that perceived belief.
I chair a national organisation called Movement for Change, which is all about community organising and empowering people to effect change in their own communities. There are numerous strands to the campaign, which include some of the work that I have done around payday lending and work around housing standards. There is also a specific stream of work around the refugee community in London, where we have been working very closely with the Refugee Council to help support destitute women in London.
One of those women is Trizah Ndwaru, who was a student at Napier in the late 1980s, where she completed a masters degree in water management. She is an incredible woman who has published several books and is highly intelligent and dignified. She went back to Rwanda and had a very successful career, but then things started to change in Rwanda. She faced horrific systematic abuse and had to flee the country and come back to the United Kingdom. She has lived in London for 12 years now without recourse to public funds. I met Trizah in the House of Commons when Stella Creasy and I were running a training workshop with women on how to empower them to take part in the political process.
The posters in the Home Office building in Glasgow’s Brand Street said
“Is life here hard? Going home is simple”.
Yes, life here is hard for Trizah Ndwaru, but she cannot go home—there is no way she can go home. She needs a Government that is on her side. She wants to be able to contribute to British culture and society, and to connect and integrate. If she cannot have that, she wants at least a Government that understands her life and how she finds herself in the United Kingdom and on what terms.
That is what the London refugee women’s forum exists to do; it is about building the womens’ confidence and giving them the power, skills and ability to articulate what their life is really like and to speak truth to power. It is about tackling the injustice of women who face destitution every day. At the moment, the women are working to make their own submission to the Home Affairs Committee’s inquiry into asylum.
That type of work is critically important. I welcome the opportunity that Jackie Baillie has given Parliament to let me tell that story today.