The Glasgow Girls campaign group yesterday launched the Declaration of Scotstoun as they outlined their plans for the future and hopes for the Scottish election.
The teenagers, who lobby on asylum issues, unveiled their vision on the 687th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath.
The seven-strong group were among 100 signatories, including author AL Kennedy and Bill Speirs, former general secretary of the STUC, declaring support for 10 “democratic reforms”.
The reform call included a referendum on independence, a reduction in the number of politicians, and a lowering of the voting age to 16.
The declaration – which also pleaded for an immediate amnesty on “legacy” case asylum seekers – was launched by the group on behalf of YouScotland.com.
The interactive website was set up in February with the aim of ensuring the views of “ordinary” voters are uppermost in the current election campaign.
As the teenagers launched the declaration in Scotstoun, they wore the national Italian tartan, in honour of Scotland’s “oldest and most successful ethnic minority”.
The group came to prominence two years ago when they launched a campaign to save a classmate at Drumchapel High School in Glasgow from deportation.
Somalian-born Amal Azzudin, 17, who attended the launch yesterday with group members, Emma Clifford and Roza Salih, explained why they had signed up for the declaration.
“We think young people should have a say in what happens in their own country,” she said. “Among other issues included in the declaration are those of asylum. We hope that everyone takes the opportunity to sign it and, in so doing, changes things in Scotland.”
Ms Azzudin, who has ambitions to become a politician, was awarded refugee status in 2004. She added: “While my future’s secure, I cannot sit back and do nothing. I still think Scotland is a just country, but the way asylum seeker children are being treated, especially, is unbelievable. Being locked up in detention centres is something they will never forget.”
Like others in the group, she gets “frustrated” at the apparently slow political progress over asylum issues. “I know political change takes time,” she said. “But we really feel there is just talk of promises from politicians, with nothing being done. While we wait, we watch our community suffer, and it isn’t just asylum seekers – it is the teachers, the neighbours, the friends.”
Ms Salih, 17, originally from Iraq, remains at risk of being removed from the country she has made her home for six years. Still at school, she has aspirations to become a human rights lawyer. “I feel we have no hope,” she said. “Asylum seekers can’t concentrate on their studies because they fear being sent back any moment.”
She added that she felt her culture was “both Iraqi and Scots”. “I was born in Iraq, but I also consider myself Scottish. I grew up here, I understood life here, my heart opened here. Here is my country now and this is where I want to study and make a life,” she said.
Alan Smart, spokesman for YouScotland.com, explained the symbolism behind the teenagers’ decision to wear the Italian tartan.
He said: “The girls wore the tartan of Scotland’s oldest and most successful ethnic minority. This was a community itself initially stigmatised and spurned by the authorities of their day – until it became obvious that they were enriching the communities they lived in, rather than taking from them.”
He added: “The Glasgow Girls have shown how, in another way, asylum seekers and people from other cultures can enrich Scotland by backing democratic reforms which will empower the people of Scotland and, in so doing, challenge the stale, closed and largely self-serving culture of our political elites.”
As with its original, the new declaration on the website is seeking an international audience, Mr Smart said. “The website aims to give a modern-day meaning to the ideals of the original declaration’s signatories, and to those of the founding fathers of the USA, themselves in part inspired by events in Arbroath,” he added.
9:20pm Friday 6th April 2007
By ALISON CHIESA
We’re sure if you have something to say about the declaration, YouScotland would be pleased to hear it on their members forum. For our part we’d like to poll readers about the declaration.
The declaration includes a reference to an amnesty for all legacy asylum seekers.
Glasgow has over a thousand families who have lived in Glasgow for many years – it’s their home, and many of their children, have attended school and become completely integrated into communities across the city. Every night these families are getting up at 5AM in the morning in fear that the immigration authorities will break down their door and drag them away to prisons like Yarlswood or Dungavel to await deportation. This has been happening all over the city. Just like with the Glasgow Girls’ experience many ordinary school children and communities have been campaigning to see an end to the practice. In Kingsway Court, where the Declaration of Scotstoun was signed today, ordinary native Glaswegians have been organising vigils and patrols to detect dawn raid snatch squads and alert their refugee neighbours, and across city a union of asylum seekers has been formed. People have been doing this and campaigning in this way because they are scared, or they are worried about their friends and neighbours. So the Glasgow Residents Network wanted to know if the demand for an amnesty for asylum seekers who’ve been living in the country a year or more is something that is widely supported, as this is obviously an issue for many residents groups and community campaigners.
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