On the way to Iona we entered Glasgow via Hamilton and soon saw evidence of the mighty architecture of the Industrial Age in the city that was once the second largest in Britain. We saw a plaque commemorating a battle with the English and discovered the necropolis, modelled on that of Pere-Lachaise in Paris and filled with impressive monuments. Glasgow city centre felt familiar- its combination of steep hills and central grid evocative of San Francisco and Melbourne. We saw the mighty Tenant’s brewery in the shadow of the medieval cathedral and discovered street-poetry that chimed with our long journey now entering its final stages.
That evening we visited the night-shelter set up and supervised by Phil and staffed by volunteers. Each night the volunteers cook and serve meals for around twenty destitute men, nearly all of them asylum-seekers who have no claim to state support. Phil told us how the government was essentially starving these people out of the country, having rejected their claims to stay but not actually deported them. The men spoke of long days sheltering in public libraries and struggling to occupy and feed themselves. A visiting journalist recently wrote about the hall where the men sleep fitfully, disturbed by each other’s night terrors of recent suffering and escape.
There is a separate room for women in the shelter, though there were none staying when we visited. Not all of the men were asylum seekers, some were vulnerable people from Britain who had found their way to sanctuary here. One young man told us about his struggles on the streets of different cities all over the UK, and how grateful he was for Phil’s friendship, protection and advice.
Click below to hear what Phil had to say about the shelter:
We returned to Glasgow after leaving Iona at the conclusion of our pilgrimage. This time we arranged to meet L from Gambia, a former detainee now waiting for his visa case to be processed. In the past he had relied on Phil and the night-shelter for accomodation. He now lives in a shared flat in East Glasgow, and due to his uncertain status he is not allowed to work, though he is studying I.T. and looks forward to the day when he can support himself and contribute to society in a meaningful way.
We got in touch with him through Indre at Samphire, the organisation that we had contacted in Dover on the first day of our pilgrimage. Lasana would have loved to walk with us but at this time he was fasting for Ramadan. Fasting from dawn to dusk in equatorial regions is one thing, but the long days of Scotland in midsummer present a special challenge for muslims who cannot break their fast between four in the morning and ten o’clock at night! Here he is speaking about the people and organisations that have helped him through ‘tough, tough, times’.
Listen to our chat with L in the link below:
To mark World Refugee Day we attended a lecture at Glasgow University given by Professor Alison Phipps. Alison is a scholar, poet, a long-time host for refugees and co-convener of the Glasgow Refugee, Asylum and Migration Network. She has just been made the first UNESCO Chair of Refugee Integration Through Languages and the Arts. This was her inaugural lecture, and the lecture theatre was filled with people and music when we arrived.
Alison has kindly given us permission to share this recording of her inspirational words, combined with the music of Gameli Tordzro and musicians from Scotland, Ghana, Gambia and Burkhina Faso, as well as poetry composed and performed by Alison and Tawona Sitholé. The lecture concluded with a performance by Noyam African Dance Institute from Dodoma in Ghana. You can hear the powerful and energetic mime and dance routine at the conclusion of Alison’s inspirational talk in the link below.