SIX months ago it denounced the Kenmure Street crowds who prevented the removal to detention of a chef and a mechanic as a “mob”.

Today, the Home Office has defended its handling of one of what was the most divisive immigration operations in recent years and one which made international news. “The people of Glasgow are as keen as everyone else in the UK to see the rule of law being upheld,” a source told the Sunday National.

The morning raid happened on May 13 amidst heightened criticism of Home Office policy following the deaths of asylum seekers Mercy Beguma and Adnan Olbeh, the use of hotels for asylum applicants during the pandemic and the horror of the Park Inn attack. And it took place in an area with a large Muslim population on the morning of Eid al-Fitr.

The event went viral and continued until the evening when Police Scotland, which faced criticism for its role in the events, intervened to call-off the removal of Sumit Sehdev and Lakhvir Singh, the two Indian Sikh men who’d spent all day in the back of a van that was blocked in on all sides by people seeking their release. One person, known only as “van man”, spent eight hours under the vehicle.

READ MORE: Kenmure Street: The lessons to be learned from Glasgow's Home Office stand-off

Police Scotland said it was there “to police the protest and to ensure public safety,” the single force said, with the release decision also made on health and safety grounds amidst a local Covid spike.

Nicola Sturgeon, the local MSP, said the force had been put in an “invidious position”, saying: “I will be demanding assurances from the UK Government that they will never again create, through their actions, such a dangerous situation.”

And the Sunday National revealed that another Indian Sikh man had been taken to immigration detention from another part of the city on the same day. Six months on, he is out of Dungavel and his solicitors are preparing a fresh immigration for him, in accordance with his legal entitlements. It’s understood that Singh and Lakhvir are also awaiting the outcome of their cases.

The National: Mohammad Asif holds a speaker while MSP Paul Sweeney speaks to the crowd next to an immigration van in Kenmure Street, Glasgow which was surrounded by protesters. Picture date: Thursday May 13, 2021. PA Photo. Police were called to the Glasgow street

Mohammad Asif was alerted to the Kenmure Street protest by his 11-year-old nephew after morning prayers

But while the day was widely hailed as a victory against the so-called “hostile environment” for migrants, the Home Office remains committed to the policies underpinning this, with Home Secretary Priti Patel telling a Tory think-tank that the removal of people “with no legal right to be in the UK” is “effectively what the British public have voted for, what they want” and pursuing the Nationality and Borders Bill, dubbed the “anti-refugee bill” by critics. These include Pinar Aksu of Maryhill Integration Network (MIN), who spent eight hours on Kenmure Street.

In a move that helped activists there organise, she’d shared resistance tactics locally following a raid on a 67-year-old. A member of MIN’s network, he’d fled Pakistan to save his daughter from forced marriage to a man who’d threatened to murder her relatives if he faced resistance. She remembers how loud the victory cheers were when the van doors opened. The international Joyous Choir turned the day’s chant of “these are our neighbours, let them go” into a song.

“We need solidarity now more than ever,” says Aksu. “The problems haven’t changed, the experiences of people are still the same and the pain of people is still the same.

“For the Home Office to have been this pressured, for Priti Patel to be this pressured and reverse this decision was a huge thing. Communities are more active and organised in terms of looking out for each other.“

Mohammad Asif, who walked Sehdev and Singh to safety with lawyer Aamer Anwar, agrees. He was alerted to the Kenmure Street protest by his 11-year-old nephew after morning prayers and spent the day there. “If it wasn’t for the people, we wouldn’t have been able to stop it,” says the Afghan Human Rights Foundation campaigner. “People from every faith and background came together.

"They didn’t know who was inside the van, what country they belonged to, what they looked like, all they wanted was fairness and justice. Kenmure was an example of humanity. I had messages from Canada, New Zealand, Australia – they wish they had a city like Glasgow where a neighbour stands for a neighbour.”

READ MORE: Scots protests force police to release men detained by Home Office in dawn raid

Official figures show 17,088 people entered immigration detention in the year ending June 2021. The largest group were Iranians, followed by Albanians. It’s not yet known how many were removed over the period.

Alison Thewliss MP, who represents Kenmure Street, remains “deeply troubled” about what happened that day. “The feeling of anger was palpable,” she says. “The actions of the Home Office were a clear infringement of basic human rights. I raised the matter with ministers in the immediate aftermath and their attempts to justify their actions were quite staggering. To date I have not received a satisfactory explanation as to why a dawn raid was carried out on Eid, and individuals held for hours with no access to legal representation.

“More worrying still is that the Home Office have no intention of changing tack on dawn raids and other malevolent policies. If anything, their rhetoric is hardening. The Nationality and Borders Bill will make it more dangerous and difficult for people to seek asylum in the UK; it will undoubtedly put more lives at risk. That the UK Government are happy to impose such policies on Scotland is an insult and the people of Glasgow won’t stand for it.”

“We engaged extensively with the Scottish Government during the operation in Glasgow, including a ministerial call with the First Minister,” a Home Office spokesperson said. “We make no apology for tackling illegal immigration and the harm it causes and the British people rightly expect us to remove those with no right to be in the UK. Our New Plan for Immigration will speed up the removal of those who have entered the UK illegally.”

“The UK Government has not listened,” says Scottish Refugee Council head Sabir Zazai. “Their anti-refugee bill presents a fundamental threat to the precious right to seek asylum in the UK, and would even criminalise people for simply seeking safety. New Scots are valued members of our communities.”

Charandeep Singh, of Sikhs in Scotland, said: “Trust has been majorly eroded by the Home Office’s actions.

“To our dismay, the Home Office has failed to engage with Sikhs in Scotland as it appears to continue its targeted approach against minority communities. It leads us to question the Home Office’s ability to be transparent, its ability to uphold human rights at home and across the world and ultimately what the true motives of its actions are.”