A MAN has died. A young man. A man aged 20. A man in hotel detention. A man in Maclays Guest House. A man formerly housed by Mears Group Ltd. A man. A man given a name of Adnan Olbeh. The news of this saddest of tragedies is buzzing on my phone with incongruously cheery ring tones.

I change the tone.

The waves of incredulity have been circulating among the ragged, fiercely organised and indefatigably creative network of activists and workers who have committed themselves to working with and for refugees. Positive Action, Unity, The Night Shelter, Ubuntu, the Scottish Refugee Council, Maryhill Integration Network, No Evictions, Refuweegee – the list is long, is civic.

Its love and tensions, solidarities and differences are vital to the work of enduring alongside those who suffer the systematic cruelties of the UK’s Home Office policies towards refugees and asylum seekers. These cruelties are carefully constructed. They involve regular court cases which find the Home Office to have broken the law; they involve years of appeals and the most mind-numbingly tenacious work by immigration lawyers and case workers.

A man has died. A man with friends. Family. A man from Syria. A man seeking refuge. A man.

A man has died.

This happened in Glasgow when protest is difficult and gatherings cannot take place, because we need to protect one another, to shield, to make many, many sanctuaries.

Nor can we gather in our usual meetings and committees or verify easily the reports from the asylum seekers reaching us via those affected, that they were given half an hour to leave their flats; rounded up into vans and decanted unceremoniously into hotels in the city where they were to share food and accommodation; their utterly pitiful asylum support of £37.50 a week was stopped; and they were full of fear. People seeking asylum. Here. And they are full of fear. Here. Here. And during Ramadan.

Those who do the lion’s share of the real work of hosting and helping are the New Scots in Glasgow; the ethnic minorities; the people who can speak the mother languages of those who are so, so afraid.

It’s hard to understand what we say in English at the best of times, in this city of Glasgow, but even harder when you are afraid. Your brain freezes; your words stumble. My friends doing this work tell me that they speak – at a two metre distance, of course, of course, always compliant – to men weeping on the park benches of the city, who have been turned out of individual flats by Mears and are now sharing in hotels. And they are so afraid. Mears, Serco, the Home Office. Names on our lips which we speak with shame.

Refuweegee have delivered 5000 packages of care so far. And they would be the first to underscore that they are not the only ones in the city doing food and medicine runs.

Underneath this figure are all the families of New Scots in the city dropping off parcels of injera and ghaat and berbera on the doorsteps of those with newborns; those who are ill; those who are working our deliveries; cleaning our hospitals.

And awaiting the fall of the next sword of Damocles from the Home Secretary’s hand. When I do this work, the police don’t stop me or question me. When the New Scots do this, they are followed home, doubted. It’s just how it is. It’s not how it should be.

A man has died. In amongst the horror of the UK’s dreadful, dreadful death toll – a death toll which is the pure face of policies of greed and carelessness – is the death of this man. Far from home. He had asked us for help. The detention systems writ large across our cities separate you. They inculcate fear. They shrink to next to nothing the circles of love and care around you.

Our time of confinement, for the keeping safe of one another, is not ‘‘lockdown’’. The years of living in asylum systems are ‘‘lockdown’’.

The world has changed. We don’t need to look any further than the saddest loss of a young life, of Adnan Olbeh, to see exactly how the Home Office is already treating those seeking refuge now.

And given that we know that the treatment of those seeking refuge works as a test ground for how we might treat those in rent arrears; those with disabilities; with mental health struggles; those who can’t work easily; those whose visas are insecure; those who can’t afford nannies or cleaners; those who will lose their jobs in the great recession that has also come upon us; then we know, again, how it is – not how it will be, but how it is, already.

The meetings have happened, despite it all. The city, thanks to her activists and her politicians and the Scottish MPs, have been clear and like terriers on the trouser leg of the Prime Minister and Home Secretary. David Linden MP using his question at Prime Minister’s Questions to press on the accommodation crisis; Councillor Jen Layden has written to the Home Secretary; there are five very clear demands from the Scottish Refugee Council.

WE want answers – yes – from a Home Office and Home Secretary who have more than 15 years worth of reports and evidence on the dangers and lethal consequences of their policies of hostility.

The refugee background experts, activists, academics and NGOs have done their work, written their reports, presented their evidence – and all that has happened is further hostility.

No respecters of evidence, or experts, our Home Office.

A man has died. The world changed and the hostility was ramped up to protect the profits of the rich, by increasing the suffering of the most vulnerable amongst us. And to every one single person who says ‘‘we must look after our own’’; even if you cannot strip those poisoned words from your tongue you must know, must know by now, that we are – and always were – connected by webs of microbes in the very air we breathe; that your health is my health; and that what is coming to visit you in your terrified speech is what has visited those who have sought help amongst us. You must know that when you need help yourself that the words which pronounce a death sentence are the very words you are speaking.

A man has died. A man asked us for help. To be amongst us. Alive.

We took an hour to join so many in online vigil in mourning the loss of this young Syrian man. Some walked by the guest house and laid flowers. The proprietors binned them. Flowers, it seems, are too unmasking, too potent a symbol, too clear a sign.

Every life lost to the asylum system – a system predicated on cruelty and injustice – is preventable. But for now – now – silence.

The surge of angry tears;

the waste of it all.

The cruelty.

The sheer hopelessness;

the unutterable loneliness.

The knowing of it in our own intimate lives.

The not knowing of it.

And in our gathered silence –

strewn with the images

of cardboard signs,

and wilting garden flowers – is our love,

the resolute love for humanity

and international solidarity

that beats high and hard

against the great breast bone of this city, still.

Rest in Peace,

friend I never met.

Rest in Peace.

Alison Phipps is Unesco chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts at the University of Glasgow, and ambassador for the Scottish Refugee Council