The tragic suicide of three Russian asylum seekers in Glasgow has shone a light on the appalling conditions faced by many refugees.
It has also led to a wave of anger and solidarity.
Over 1,000 thousand people joined a demonstration in Glasgow last Saturday demanding an inquiry into the deaths at the Red Road flats.
Serguei Serykh, Tatiana Serykh and Stepan, Tatiana’s son jumped from a 15th floor window earlier this month. All three were seeking asylum.
Around 1,000 refugees are housed on the estate, which was declared unfit for human habitation in 1980 and is due for demolition.
One resident told the Herald newspaper, “The flats are in a terrible condition.
“The windows are 30 years old and you need to open them to avoid condensation. They have blue mould growing on them.
“We hope we will be out of here in the next three or four weeks.”
Margaret Woods of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees told Socialist Worker, “The threat of detention and deportation is used to stop people pursuing their asylum claims.
“People are being removed to countries with notorious regimes.
“There have been a number of suicides and many other asylum seekers often feel suicidal.
“Lots of refugees are traumatised before they get here – that’s why they fled.
“And the treatment they receive once they arrive would be enough to make some people flee again, if there was anywhere to go to.
“If life is as easy as the right wing press and politicians like to suggest, why are people so desperate that they would kill themselves?
“This is not the only tragic case.
“Uddhav Bhandari set fire to himself in a Glasgow court in 2007 rather than be deported after his asylum claim was rejected.
“I know of another man who hanged himself.”
One resident, who is not an asylum seeker, told a 300-strong vigil on the estate the Tuesday after the deaths, that he was “absolutely shocked” at what had happened.
“People must be really desperate and treated really badly to do something awful like this.”
He was joined at the meeting by a school student from an asylum-seeking family, who said, “I like my school because I’m accepted with all the other children.
“Why can’t the government do the same?”
Margaret told Socialist Worker that in the wake of the suicide, it was vital that campaigners helped bring people together..
“That’s one reason why Saturday’s march was so important,” she said.
“All sorts of people joined, including many refugees, and campaigners, as well as trade unionists and three MSPs.
“We had the Scottish TUC banner, and Sheeboom, a group of drummers, also gave us their support.
“We are demanding a fatal accident inquiry. We want the government to be held to account.”
Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond is now calling for such an inquiry.
Jock Morris, chair of the Glasgow Committee to Welcome Refugees, told Socialist Worker, “The deaths first caused shock, followed by sadness and now anger. People really want to shift the despair into a fightback.”
- Asylum seekers are not allowed to work
- They receive just £35 a week – 30 percent less than income support