THE creation of protest-free zones around Home Office-provided accommodation in Scotland is set to be explored by the Scottish Government.
A proposal to look at protecting refugees from far-right protests outside their homes was agreed to unanimously by delegates at SNP conference on Tuesday.
The resolution was put forward by the Govan Kingston Branch on the back of anti-asylum demonstrations outside the Muthu Glasgow River Hotel - which houses asylum seekers - this year.
A far-right group associated with the neo-Nazi Patriotic Alternative party not only held protests outside the hotel but specifically targeted local councillors and politicians on material it plastered around the community.
The SNP have now agreed to try and combat this hostility by looking at forming safe access zones around accommodation housing asylum seekers, much like those which may be put in place around services providing abortion care via the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill.
Dovydas Kuilesas, of the Govan Kingston Branch, told conference: “For months now Erskine has been something of a flashpoint of conflict. A group of far-right activists has been harassing asylum seekers housed in the Muthu Glasgow River Hotel.
“They stand outside the Home Office-provided temporary accommodation shouting racists slogan and deliberately working to incite local hostility to these refugees. This group has sought to weaponise the housing of refugees in these hotels.
“The SNP is a proudly anti-racist party. We are in fact the largest anti-racist party at Holyrood and at Westminster. Our party’s history is marked by a consistent, long standing commitment to the idea of a Scottish nation that is open, welcoming and inclusive.
“It cannot be overemphasised that it is not normal or acceptable for someone to be worried about being told to leave the country or attacked outside their own house, or on the way to the supermarket or church. We would not accept such racist or personalised harassment outside a tenement or city block.”
Erskine councillor Michelle Campbell (above) – the only elected person of colour in Renfrewshire - saw her contact details plastered on material posted around the community by the far-right group, but said the only contact she received was from people thanking her.
Campbell, whose mum fled a dictatorship, said in support of the resolution: “I know on a very personal level how this feels for some of these residents.
“You’re living in such fear that the best option for you to just feel safe again is for you to go somewhere else and then when you get there and you’re met with this wall of hostility. Who deserves that?
“I find it abhorrent and I find the actions of Patriotic Alternative shambolic. I will not enable their voice further.
“When they first came to Erskine to put on their charade, they made attempts to target myself and they did it very subtly and very carefully in some of the material they were putting out. They put my contact details on there.
“The only contact I got was people thanking me in Erskine for making my view very clear on the matter and the same with our SNP colleagues Councillor Iain Nicolson, MSP Natalie Don and our MP Gavin Newlands.”
The agreed resolution reads: “Conference stands by the principle of providing shelter for those in need, including those who seek refuge from elsewhere.
“Conference reaffirms its commitment to Article 8 ECHR, which includes the right for a person to have peaceful enjoyment of their home. Conference notes with interest the progress through the Scottish Parliament of the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill, which recognises that freedom from harassment may need to be guaranteed by way of creating protest-free zones around facilities where people access essential services.
“Conference recognises the right of individuals and groups to express freely their opinion on any policy issue, but notes that this right is qualified and should not infringe upon the freedoms of others to live peacefully.
“Conference does not believe that the appropriate place for protest is outside one’s home. As such, conference urges the Scottish Government to explore the creation of such safe access zones around Home Office-provided accommodation for asylum seekers, in which protest would be limited or prohibited entirely.”