A shameful deportation Treatment of Vucaj family reflects badly on Scotland

30 September 2005

Reprinted from the Herald Newspaper Editorial Section

SO MUCH for protocol. The agreement reached by JackMcConnell with the Home Office on a code of conduct for removing failed asylum-seekers from Britain counted for little yesterday. The Vucaj family, who had lived happily in Glasgow for five years, were taken from Yarl’s Wood detention centre, Bedfordshire, before dawn and put on a flight to Kosovo. The family had fled their homeland because Isen Vucaj, the father, feared persecution.

It was the treatment they had received in Glasgow, which we more commonly associate with persecutors, that caused the first minister to voice, for the first time, his concern about the handling of asylum-seekers.

He spoke up after the Vucaj family were evicted from their home in Drumchapel earlier this month in a dawn raid by immigration officials. Up to 16 immigration officers were reportedly involved. A child was said to have been handcuffed. Professor Kathleen Marshall, the children’s commissioner, subsequently condemned dawn raids on failed asylum-seekers for traumatising children and families.

According to the McConnell agreement, the Home Office is in future to work closely with devolved services responsible for young people and children (education and social work) before families are removed. Scottish ministers clearly want an end to dawn raids and handcuffing children.

We agree wholeheartedly. We also welcome Mr McConnell’s intervention. Would that he had been so bold in the case of the Ay children and their mother, who were held in Dungavel detention centre formore than a year.

The first minister’s writ does not run, of course, in Westminster. More’s the pity in the Vucaj case. We know family members were roused from their beds before dawn because Saida, who is 13, telephoned Robina Qureshi of Positive Action in Housing in Glasgow at 4.21am yesterday. Not surprisingly, the teenagerwas greatly distressed.

The Home Office says its approach to removing failed asylum-seekers from Britain is and will remain robust. Are ministers and officials familiarwith the adjective proportionate? Judging by their heavy-handed treatment of the Vucaj family (on two separate occasions in the same month), the answer is no. Sometimes there is no merit in being consistent. Although the Vucajs were deported by the authorities in England, this episode reflects badly on Scotland, despite the first minister’s intervention. The family was settled in Drumchapel and popular in the community. Teachers and school friends of the children are aghast at their treatment. The Vucaj family made a contribution of the kind we need, for demographic reasons, to see replicated by many more immigrant families coming to Scotland. How, exactly, can they be encouraged when the Vucaj family has been treated so shamefully?

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