Asylum seekers as valued community members

Stereotype has it that the British working class is the most likely segment of the population to be racist and anti-immigrant, scapegoating and hating on the asylum seekers. But this heartening article tells a different story.

We had our own little code to warn them it was a dawn raid and to get out. There’s more than one way of getting out of the flats – there’s two staircases and two lifts, so you could play games if you knew how. If we were a thorn in their flesh, then good.”
Sixty-seven-year-old Jean Donnachie flashes a mischievous smile as she describes the tactics she and her neighbours used every day to thwart immigration officers trying to arrest asylum seekers on her estate in Glasgow. A grandmother and former cashier who has lived on the Kingsway for 20 years, she makes an unlikely resistance fighter. But when she talks about how the estate took on the Home Office, there is a gleam of defiance in her eyes.

At first sight, the Kingsway seems an unwelcoming place. Wind whips around the 15-storey tower blocks, the windows in the lobby doors are broken, the corridors are gloomy and bare. Remnants of police incident tape flicker from lampposts and prominent surveillance cameras add an air of menace to its pathways. There is little to dispel the sense that this is one of Britain’s forgotten pockets of poverty.

But when hundreds of asylum seekers were placed there to live – often for years – while their cases were processed, they were warmly embraced. “We had been really going downhill – a lot of antisocial families were being put here. But after a year of the asylum seekers coming, the atmosphere became completely different,” Donnachie says. “These people couldn’t do enough for you, and I thought this was wonderful – it was like going back to when I was a child and you could leave the key in the door and if you needed help someone would come round.”

In the UK, people seeking asylum are often kept waiting for verdicts on their cases for years– during which time they are given a place to stay and subsistence, but not allowed to work. As a result, many have thrown themselves into voluntary work in their communities, become valued and much-loved neighbours. And when the government gets around to deciding to throw them out, the communities are fighting back. This is happening across the country, and community efforts are apparently meeting with at least some degree of success.

An important story, and one that goes against the conventional narrative– that’s what happens when you actually talk to people, rather than just accepting the received wisdom.
Via The F-word.