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Wednesday, 8 August, 2001, 22:02 GMT 23:02 UK
Refugee mediator to be appointed
Glasgow City Council i
Glasgow City Council is to appoint a mediator in Sighthill
Glasgow City Council is to appoint a mediator to help ease racial tensions in the Sighthill area after two asylum seekers were stabbed in three days.

Council leader, Charles Gordon, said that the mediator would aim to improve communication between asylum seekers and people from the local community and would be in place by next week.

The post is part of a package of measures which the council hopes will defuse racial tensions that have soared after three days of violence, fear and recrimination.

The move follows a pledge from the Scottish Executive that it will play a more active part in helping to resolve the problems in Sighthill.


There is very little racism in Sighthill, it is described better as economic jealously

Rev Gwynfai Jones
Robina Quereshi, from the ethnic minority housing agency Positive Action, welcomed news of the mediator, but she hoped it would not simply be "gesture politics".

She said: "This is not going to be the solution, it is going to part of the solution.

"I hope is not just gesture politics, I hope it will achieve better communication between refugees, the council the police and the local community."

Rev Gwynfai Jones, who has been minister at St Rollox Church in Sighthill for the past 34 years, also welcomed the move.

'It's not fair'

But he said it was important to understand what had been going on in Sighthill.

Rev Jones said: "There is very little racism there. It is described better as economic jealously.

"In Sighthill there are a lot of poor people who have struggled and they see refugees moving into newly refurbished accommodation and not having to pay a penny for it - their opinion is that it is not fair.

"We see both sides of the story. The refugees have come from the most horrid circumstances which will have scared them for life."

Malcolm Chisholm
Malcolm Chisholm: Talks with consortium
Mr Gordon announced the new mediator post in an interview with The Herald newspaper.

He said: "People are worried about red tape and bureaucracy.

"Our plan is to appoint a key council official who will listen to what they have to say and who will have instant access to my office and to all the departments involved.

"A lot of these measures are not rocket science. Neither are they headline-grabbing solutions."

He said the difficulties of the past few days would not deter the council from its commitment to house asylum seekers in Glasgow.

'Gift to racists'

"I feel that if we were to countenance trying to put a stop to our contractual agreement then it will do incalculable damage to the morale of the city and present a gift to the racists who are undoubtedly out there at work," he said.

On Wednesday, Scottish ministers stepped into the row when they promised to ease the plight of asylum seekers in Scotland.

Deputy Health Minister Malcom Chisholm said that he would be discussing help measures with ministerial colleagues "later this week" and encouraged more Scottish councils to "play a role" in dealing with refugees.

police in sighthill
Police continue to have a high profile presence in the area
He also said that the executive would announce details of an "integration forum" to help the "sizeable numbers of asylum seekers" settle into Scottish life.

Mr Chisholm's comments were made following a meeting with the Scottish Asylum Seekers Consortium.

Although the meeting had been arranged weeks before recent trouble, the issue of fresh action had been propelled to the top of the agenda.

Frustration among local residents and asylum seekers being housed in Sighthill has been simmering for several months.

But it finally boiled over on Monday when news broke that 22-year-old Kurdish asylum seeker Firsat Yildiz had been stabbed to death the night before.

Protest march

This prompted hundreds of asylum seekers to make a protest march to the city council headquarters in George Square and demand action.

Davoud Rasul Naseri
Davoud Rasul Naseri was stabbed on Tuesday
On Monday night, dozens of local residents, mostly youths, held a counter demonstration in Sighthill to highlight what they claim is favouritism towards asylum seekers and refugees.

The situation was further inflamed on Wednesday when news broke that another asylum seeker had been stabbed.

Davoud Rasul Naseri, 22, was injured during the attack on Tuesday night when he took out rubbish from his flat in the Sighthill area of Glasgow.

He later told journalists that he no longer felt safe in Glasgow and that he hated the city and its people.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Huw Williams
outlines the plans for the new appointment
Robina Quereshi
"This is not going to be the whole solution"
See also:

08 Aug 01 | Scotland
Stabbed asylum seeker's anger
08 Aug 01 | Scotland
Ministers in asylum seekers pledge
07 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Refugee dispersal 'will continue'
05 Aug 01 | Scotland
Murder hunt for Turkish man's killer
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