I add my thanks to those of my colleagues to Jackie Baillie for bringing this important debate to the chamber, especially at this time of year. Yesterday was international migrants day, and we celebrated the day in the Parliament on Tuesday night when, with the Scottish Refugee Council, Migrants Rights Scotland, Migrant Voice and a number of eminent academics, we debated with Humza Yousaf, the Minister for External Affairs and International Development, the very positive impact that new Scots have had on this land. The warm stories of the welcomes that they received were tinged with the harrowing stories of the treatment that was meted out by the Home Office and the UK Border Agency.
Let us get one thing straight: as members have stated, migrants in Scotland contribute far more to our society than they take out—that is a plain fact. Yesterday, when we were celebrating the positives of migration, David Cameron and his anti-EU pals in UKIP were heading to Brussels to tell the EU what to do. How confrontational and nasty can they get? Some people describe UKIP as the tail wagging the coalition dog, but I would describe it as an irksome flea on the tail wagging the dog. We saw how nasty they can get with their go home campaign vans and posters on billboards. What a disgusting exercise. Using the language of the far right in such a campaign is absolutely abhorrent.
Today, the Migrant Voice website carried a blog post by Pinar Aksu. Its headline uses one of the tag lines of the Home Office’s campaign: “Is life here hard? Going home is simple.” The post continues:
“Once again, here I am—outside the Home Office at Brand Street in Glasgow. This is where I used to come with my family every Monday after school to let UKBA know that we are here and not running away. This is where I witnessed how some people on this planet have no feelings. Their hearts have been replaced with cold stones. They don’t believe you. They don’t listen to you. THEY treat you as a number. By ‘they’ I am referring to those who work for UKBA. If they were part of this world then they could understand the reasons why people seek asylum: Not for fun, but for their safety.
It has been 7 years that I have been involved with campaigning for asylum and human rights. Every time I come to Brand Street, I feel different. It brings back memories when I was an asylum seeker and how my family was treated. Nothing but a piece of paper. Sometimes it hurts being here, knowing that this disgusting treatment is continuing. Many families being sent back, many dreams being locked away: trust me UKBA you are not helpful at all. Once again this is why I am here again, standing shoulder to shoulder supporting those that must witness posters saying ‘Go Home’ in Glasgow and London. I find this disgusting and humiliating and I am not alone in thinking this.
The Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (and others) mentioned how she was unhappy with what was going on, meanwhile the Minister for Immigration, Mark Harper replied back to Ms Sturgeon saying ‘it was for failed asylum seekers to return home easily and with dignity’. I want to clarify something here, why would someone who runs away from a war zone or from any other difficulties want to go back? Why would someone want to leave their homeland and face difficulties in another country? I suppose no one will understand this unless they carry a brain and a heart with them.
I only ask for one thing: bin those posters! It is disgusting to see such a thing happening in a country with ‘human rights’. Let me tell you one final thing, no one in this world would want to leave their sweet home out of nowhere and move to another country to be treated like an animal. For those who came up with this clever idea saying, ‘Is life here hard? Going home is simple’, why don’t you go and see if ‘life is hard there’?”
To return to Christmas, would the UKBA have turned away Mary and Joseph if they had sought asylum in this country? I wonder.
I know that Jackie Baillie will not agree with me on this point, but the only way to move away from the anti-EU, anti-migrant, right-wing danger that is Westminster is to vote yes next year.