Welcome, a 20-minute film by the Camcorder Guerillas collective, tells the story of three asylum seekers who have faced eviction in Glasgow.
‘My life is frozen’, says Jabulani Moyo, a teacher and member of the opposition movement in Zimbabwe. His claim for asylum was rejected because the adjudicator did not believe that he was really a teacher and expected him to supply pay slips as evidence. Now, Jabulani has joined the ‘lost community’ of asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected but whose home countries remain too dangerous for them to be returned to. They face eviction and a life of ‘stateless limbo’ on the streets or on friends’ floors. ‘I’m existing but it’s not a life’, says Jabulani. ‘I don’t think Scottish people know we are being chucked onto the streets, or they would not allow it to happen.’
Sakineh Ghazelmlo fled violence and persecution in Iran and lived in a Glasgow flat for three years, while her asylum claim was processed. The film shows Sheriff’s Officers evicting her from the home she has felt safe in and leaving her on the streets, after her asylum claim was rejected. As Margaret Thompson, a local resident of Sighthill, says: ‘People in Britain would not do to a dog what they do to these people.’
‘Forced into starvation’
Hundreds of asylum seekers in Glasgow have already been evicted and more are being thrown out onto the streets every week. Yet most people are unaware of what this powerful film calls ‘the human rights crisis on the streets of Glasgow’. Jabulani describes the eviction policy, imposed on Glasgow City Council from Westminster, as designed ‘to force people into starvation, as if it’s a crime that you managed to survive and come and seek sanctuary here.’
Things have got so bad that even Strathclyde police offer polite criticism of the policy. Chief Inspector Alex MacDonald points out that making asylum seekers homeless leads to their being victims of crime. He adds: ‘It doesn’t sit easily with us when we see the effects of a policy which means that people are being made destitute.’ He goes on to make an appeal for people to come forward and offer support, either by making donations to charities that work with asylum seekers or by providing accommodation.
It is the networks of voluntary support that have sprung up to help destitute asylum seekers that give the film a strand of hope. Jabulani was put up by a volunteer who came forward to share his home with a stranger. A mutual love of chess was the impetus for what became a friendship between the two men. The film appeals for more people to come forward in this way to provide assistance. As one resident of Sighthill put it: ‘There are people with hearts out there and we have got to let asylum seekers know.’
Welcome is available on video from Camcorder Guerillas. Organisations which can afford it are asked to pay a supporter price of £50, which will then cover the cost of duplication for those who cannot afford to buy their own copy. The video comes with a ‘toolkit’ for supporting destitute asylum seekers and campaigning against evictions.