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Saturday, 25 August, 2001, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Sighthill residents stage 'unity' march
Sighthill marchers
Hundreds of people took part in the march
Hundreds of people from the Sighthill area of Glasgow have marched on the city council headquarters to call for immediate action to improve conditions.

Around 350 people turned out in a show of solidarity after racial tensions escalated following the death of a 22-year-old asylum seeker.

Local people, politicians and leading Scottish actors walked side by side with asylum seekers as the march converged on the city's George Square.

The marchers want to see a package of improvements for Sighthill, including better education and a greater police presence.

Sighthill banners
The banners read: "Sighthill united"
Tensions, which had been building for months in the area, finally boiled over three weeks ago after a 22-year-old asylum seeker was killed.

Firsat Yildiz - also known as Firsat Dag - died after being stabbed in the early hours of Sunday 5 August.

A man has since appeared in court in connection with the Turkish Kurd's death but the incident sparked days of unrest in Sighthill.

Now local people, asylum seekers, politicians and actors have united to march on the city council headquarters to demand better amenities and funding for the area.

As the march got under way banners were unfurled which read: "Sighthill united. Against poverty, against racism, asylum seekers welcome."

Floral tributes

Among those in attendance were Scottish actors Peter Mullan and David Hayman and Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan.

When the marchers arrived in George Square floral tributes to Mr Dag and others in Sighthill were laid at the cenotaph, which sits in front of the council headquarters.

Even though the building was closed, community leaders called the march a success.

Aamer Anwar
Aamer Anwar: Huge steps taken
Mohammed Asif, a spokesman for Sighthill's 1,500 asylum seekers, said: "I think today's march gives a very clear message to the authorities that the asylum seekers and residents of Sighthill are as one."

Margaret Thomspon, a residents' spokeswoman, said: "We want to tell Glasgow City Council that we want to be listened to from now on.

"We will not take what they decide to give us, we will tell them what we want."

Tommy Sheridan, leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, called on the government to scrap the asylum seekers voucher system.

Actor David Hayman said: "I am ashamed by what has happened at Sighthill but I am delighted at this show of solidarity today.

"The loss of life should never have happened and we should do anything in our power to alleviate the system which makes refugees suffer in this way."

'Together in unity'

Local anti-race campaigner Aamer Anwar said the march symbolised the huge steps taken in the last few weeks.

He said: "This is the only march in the country where asylum seekers and local people have come together in unity.

"Glasgow is leading the way and others should follow our example."

Tommy Sheridan
Tommy Sheridan called for an end to the voucher system
March organisers said they hoped the high profile event would put pressure on local politicians and Scottish ministers to bring about change.

But Glasgow City Council said that "most of the demands" made by the marchers were "already being addressed".

Councillor Archie Graham said: "Some involve other agencies, and one could only benefit Sighthill at the expense of the rest of Glasgow.

"We shall continue to work with and hold meetings with representatives of Sighthill.

"The work that the council is doing for asylum seekers is also designed to benefit everyone in the communities in which they live.

'No profit'

"Glasgow City Council uses the money it receives under its agreement with the National Asylum Support Service to provide mainstream services such as housing, education, social work and interpreting and translation.

"The council makes no profit from this agreement, and our books are open to inspection.

"Glasgow is the only place in Scotland to have opened its doors to asylum seekers under the current dispersal scheme.

"The council and its staff are fully committed to providing asylum seekers with proper homes - not hostel accommodation - and support."

Tenants' leaders from Sighthill will meet Justice Minister Jim Wallace on Tuesday to put their case for lower rents, better adult education facilities, a higher police presence and stronger action on anti-social neighbours.

The BBC's Andrew Cassell in Glasgow
"This was a public demonstration of unity"
BBC Scotland's Jamie McIvor
"Some 400 people joined the march from Sighthill"
See also:

18 Aug 01 | Scotland
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