11 years ago, age 15, Amal Azzudin and friends took a stand against the immigration authorities’ treatment of an asylum seeker friend in Glasgow.
When friend and fellow Drumchapel High School pupil Agnesa Murselaj was removed from her home in a dawn raid along with her family, Amal and six of her classmates set their sights on her release.
As Roma from Kosovo, Agnesa and her family had come to Scotland five years previously to seek asylum; now they found themselves locked in a detention centre, threatened with deportation.
What began as a simple petition intensified into a forthright campaign to lobby the Home Office for the family’s release, and for more humane treatment of asylum seekers. Press and TV coverage won them support from the community, and the group eventually found themselves confronting the then First Minister Jack McConnell face to face.
Their efforts paid off: the girls got their friend (and her family) back three weeks later. Amal is originally from Somalia and had herself received leave to remain in the UK just the year before the incident involving her friend.
She has recently been awarded Young Outstanding Woman of Scotland award by the Saltire Society! Her continued work is an inspiration.
There are still many people in detention and facing deportation silently, who aren’t fortunate enough to have made friends who can campaign for their rights.
There are so many things that people can do from the UK to help in this “crisis,” that has lasted for many, many years. A really great place to start, if you are based in Scotland, is Scottish Detainee Visitors, who are recruiting now.