A SCOTS lawyer has described the Home Office as “cowards” for refusing to answer calls from the First Minister and Justice Secretary to end a stand-off in Glasgow after a mass protest against the immigration removal of two Indian men.

More than 1000 people gathered in Pollokshields on Thursday – the day of Eid marking the end of the fasting month Ramadan – when officials arrested chef Sumit Sehdev and Lakhvir Singh, a mechanic. The protest saw people crowding the immigration removal van in Kenmure Street, and some lying under it, as more than 100 police officers arrived in riot vans.

Lawyer Aamer Anwar brokered the deal that saw the men return to their community. Speaking yesterday on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, he described the immigration raid as “deeply cynical and provocative”.

“It was held in the day of Eid in the most diverse community in Scotland, the largest Muslim community, and the cowards from the Home Office initially refused to answer the phone to the First Minister of Scotland, to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice,” he said.

The National:

“In my discussions with the police they were at the end of their tether because they had not been informed about this raid and then were called upon for their assistance.

“Glasgow and other cities have said time and time again that they want an end to dawn raids and it’s pretty clear that the Scottish Government and political parties in Scotland, apart from the Conservative Party, are deeply unhappy with the Home Office conducting itself in this manner, so they need to respond.

“It was almost as though Priti Patel’s Home Office had lit a fuse from London and wanted the carnage to take place without realising the impact it would have had on the community.”

The National: Aamer Anwar at last week's protest at Kenmure Street in GlasgowAamer Anwar at last week's protest at Kenmure Street in Glasgow

He said police had two options – to release the men or the “unthinkable” idea of using force to disperse a local community chanting ‘let them go, these are our neighbours’, and had to let them go “because of people power”. Anwar said such action would continue until the UK Government changed how it operated, without the “systemic, barbaric treatment” of asylum seekers and refugees.

He said he wondered what the Home Office had planned to do with the two men: “We’re in the middle of Covid, where were they going to deport them to because India wasn’t going to accept them?”

Anwar said he believed Scotland should have its own immigration system: “It may well be a reserved matter but it could be implemented if people put their heads together. “The fact that the Home Secretary couldn’t even pick up the phone to our First Minister shows the disdain that she has for the people of Scotland.

“I bet if this was happening in London she would have picked up the phone to the Metropolitan Police or the Lord Mayor. I think the issue is this – no human being is illegal and this system needs to change. For many years we have seen the scar on the map of Scotland, Dungavel immigration removal centre and people have had enough and they want to see change. The majority of people in Scotland didn’t vote for this Westminster Government.”

He said such raids frequently ended with “removed” individuals being released from Dungavel and he believed we had to change how we treat people who are seeking safety from persecution, poverty and war.

"As far as the Home Office is concerned such people are seen as breaking the law", Anwar said, but: “If there’s anyone breaking the law it’s Priti Patel, it’s the Home Office, immigration enforcement people.

“We saw it with Windrush, we see it with illegal deportations of asylum seekers and that system should be ripped up and it should be started again.” The lawyer said the events had brought together people from all sides of the political divide, adding: “This should not be allowed to happen in Scotland.”

He said: “It’s a disgrace, it’s barbarism in practice. So yes, it will become a political hot potato ... but the people of Glasgow set the benchmark high and showed exactly what’s possible.

“The Home Secretary referred to the people of Kenmure Street as a ‘mob’. They’re not a mob, that’s the peace-loving diverse community that lives there, so of course there were real concerns but people were wanting to protect the lives of these individuals and that’s why they came out.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK Government is tackling illegal immigration and the harm it causes, often to the most vulnerable people, by removing those with no right to be in the UK. The operation in Glasgow was conducted in relation to suspected immigration offences and the two Indian nationals complied with officers at all times."