By Lynn Malone
A Scottish human rights campaigner has reacted angrily to posters displaying the message “Go Home” at a UK border agency in Glasgow.
Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, a Scottish refugee homelessness charity, wants to highlight the new “Hate” campaign at the UK agency in Brand Street which she says is undermining anti-racist work in Scotland.
She said: “Positive Action in housing believes that the UKBA’s “Go Home” poster campaign is nothing more than a racist and xenophobic “Hate Campaign” designed to harass and wear down those from refugee communities and undermine the excellent anti-racist work already being done in Scotland.
Giant posters depict a destitute refugee in the UKBA Brand Street offices in Glasgow. It says ‘Is life here hard? Going home is simple.’ On every single chair in the large waiting room, there are large stickers saying ‘Ask about going home’ to reinforce the hostile message to asylum seekers reporting daily or weekly there.
This poster campaign is racist and offensive. “Go Home” is the classic racist taunts used for decades in this country by fascists and racists against ethnic minorities.
Other messages appear on the floor and in the area where asylum seekers “sign on” and there are reports of huge images of aircraft accompanied by questions suggesting they should go home – rather than endure the life of an asylum seeker in Scotland.
Ms Qureshi whose work involves countering racism and discrimination said: “That a government agency should decide to take up the same racist and xenophobic refrain while “processing” would-be refugees to this country, is shameful and deeply offensive.
“If there was a parallel campaign telling patients in A&E hospitals not to turn up for treatment you can imagine the public outcry. The “Go Home” poster campaign exposes the UKBA’s attitude and gives us a small idea of what refugees in this country go through when they seek asylum.”
The human rights campaigner explains that claiming refuge is a human right but says the reality is that refugees entering the UK are caught up in the incompetent bureaucratic mess that is the “British asylum system”
Ms Quershi alleges the Home Office failed to deal with a backlog that left more than 100,000 postal enquiries about asylum cases unopened in November 2012. The asylum seekers affected have been left in limbo for an average of 7 years, she claims.
The row follows the recent scheme which saw vans driving through London and other major cities calling on illegal immigrants to leave or face investigation. The Home Office sanctioned billboards which contained language reminiscent of slogans used by racist far-right parties in the 1970s and 80s.
Civil rights group Liberty claimed that the Home Office’s slogans had “racist connotations – mirroring National Front slogans from the 1970s” adding that they were “deeply offensive and divisive and in breach of the Equality Act 2010 so therefore unlawful.”
The new van poster campaign directed at would be refugees was condemned as racist and is currently being investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority.
Ms Qureshi, who has campaigned to close detention centres for asylum seekers in the past is urging the public to write to their MPs and MSPs to call for the “Hate” campaign to be stopped immediately. She hopes to raise the matter in Parliament.