CIH Vice President addresses rally against eviction of asylum seekers in Glasgow
CIH Vice President Jim Strang attended a rally on Saturday (4th August 2018) to demonstrate against proposals by accommodation contractor Serco to evict hundreds of asylum seekers from their homes in Glasgow. You can read Jim's speech in full below.
This is a beautiful country.
We have a rich and diverse culture and history which we rightly celebrate.
We have contributed to the advancement of the human race well out of proportion to our size and wealth.
However, we have a dark and shameful history in how we tolerate injustices. Other parts of this seemingly enlightened country stood by as the Highlanders were evicted and thrown into slums here in our cities and also into cargo boats taking them overseas to a lifetime of further hardship and misery.
We stood by as the displaced Irish, fleeing the effects of a famine and an indifferent government, arrived on our harbours and were directed to the worst housing imaginable, leading to generational poverty that many have struggled to climb out of.
We tolerated rent racketeering during the Great War, until a certain Mary Barbour and others made their stand on behalf of the women of Glasgow whilst their menfolk drowned in the mud of Flanders and saw off the evictions by landlords of working class housing. Their stand helped us learn that the collective will always achieve more than the individual.
We have learned that we achieve so much with unity, standing together and facing down injustice. By our collective effort we can ensure that those people facing homelessness and destitution today are given a better tomorrow, where they can face the future with dignity and hope.
However, the unity shown here today by those of us so enraged, so angry, so disgusted by the move by the Home Office to instruct their contractor to begin evicting hundreds of vulnerable displaced people and families has sadly not been echoed across society. You only have to glance on the comments pages of newspapers and on social media to hear uncomfortable views emanating around this country:
“Send them all back!”
“We should house our own first”
“I can’t get a house – why should they get one before me?”
“Why are they even here?”
When we allow society to become fractured; when we allow the “them and us” mentality to entrench and embolden itself into the national psyche; when we fail to challenge misconceptions and outright lies, that’s when the ugly face of Fascism begins to make injustices against humanity, like these heinous evictions, tolerable acts.
This isn’t just about how these hundreds of asylum seekers are treated. This is about our common sense of humanity. We must ask ourselves, as a society, how do we wish the most vulnerable amongst to be treated? How would we wish to be treated in similar dire circumstances? Can we stand by and allow an increasingly hostile and embittered Establishment to pick us off one by one? We must say ‘no’ to division and bigotry and ‘yes’ to unity and harmony.
Friends, finally I say to you all that we should learn from our history and demand better; we must demand that the Home Office treats these people with the utmost humanity and compassion. We must demand that they are given all possible legal options to state their case for asylum and treated with dignity and respect whilst doing so.
No more evictions, no more destitution. We must end poverty today.
*Jim Strang is Vice President of CIH and Chief Executive of Parkhead Housing Association.