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Tuesday, 28 August, 2001, 18:35 GMT 19:35 UK
Wallace told 'Sighthill needs help'
Sighthill flats
Racial tension in the Sighthill area has been high
Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace has been told that action and investment are needed to help the Sighthill area of Glasgow overcome its recent troubles.

Mr Wallace met local residents, asylum seekers, police and other groups on Tuesday to hear their concerns after three weeks of unrest and racial tension.

Although he made no promises of specific help, the deputy first minister promised to relay concerns to cabinet colleagues.

Local people said they were pleased that Mr Wallace took the time to visit them but said the area could no longer be abandoned.

Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace
Jim Wallace: Private visit
Mr Wallace's visit, along with local Labour MSP Paul Martin, was intended to be a low-key affair with minimal publicity.

Officials said it had been planned for some time before the current crisis.

But news of the visit emerged when tenants and asylum seekers staged a weekend "unity" march to the city council headquarters to vent their grievances.

During Saturday's rally in Glasgow's George Square, they repeated demands for a package of improvements for the area.

Similar calls were made when Mr Wallace visited Sighthill on Tuesday and he said that talks had been productive.

No debate

The deputy first minister said that although recent troubles had put the area under the spotlight, "asylum seekers and local people were far more intent on raising issues about the social and economic condition of Sighthill".

Mr Wallace said the need for better housing and improved facilities for young people were the issues which dominated his visit.

He added: "It wasn't a debate or discussion about asylum seekers as such, it really was, in many respects, about the social and economic regeneration of an area like Sighthill."

One of the big issues is the fact that although there is a lot of rhetoric about tenant empowerment, in reality, there is almost none

Charlie Riddell, Fountainwell Residents' Association
Although Mr Wallace listened to concerns, he made no promises about immediate action or funding - a feature of his visit which left some people slightly disappointed.

Referring to recent troubles, Sighthill resident Tina Suffredini, said: "The scheme has been left. This hasn't just come overnight since the asylum seekers came here.

"This has been a problem for 20-odd years."

She said that Sighthill had "no facilities and had just been left to get on with it".

Ms Suffredini added that 7,000 people in the area could not be "abandoned" by the authorities.

'Knock heads together'

Charlie Riddell, of Fountainwell Residents' Association, said that Mr Wallace would be judged on whether he could deliver.

He said: "We are hoping the minister will take all we have said and knock a few heads together.

"It's not as if we haven't brought up anything that hasn't been brought up before.

Glasgow City Chambers
Sighthill residents marched on Glasgow City Council
"One of the big issues is the fact that although there is a lot of rhetoric about tenant empowerment, in reality, there is almost none."

He added: "If things do start to move then I think he's (Mr Wallace) going to have to get some of the credit for that."

Last week, Mr Wallace fiercely criticised the way asylum seekers have been treated in Scotland.

He said there was no excuse for the physical and verbal abuse suffered by some refugees, and it had brought shame on the country.

Tensions in the area rose to the surface earlier this month after the death of a Kurdish man, 22-year-old Firsat Dag.

A man appeared in court on Monday accused of his murder.

Mr Dag's family have taken his body home to Turkey for burial.

BBC Scotland's David Henderson
"This has been a month of turmoil for Sighthill"
See also:

13 Aug 01 | Scotland
City appoints asylum row mediator
12 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett to review asylum dispersal
12 Aug 01 | Scotland
Murdered Kurd aimed to quit UK
11 Aug 01 | Scotland
New lead in asylum murder hunt
10 Aug 01 | Scotland
UN condemns asylum seeker attacks
10 Aug 01 | Scotland
More asylum seekers flee city
09 Aug 01 | Scotland
Newspaper faces refugee protest
08 Aug 01 | Scotland
Stabbed asylum seeker's anger
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