Blog


Image: Down and Out in Glasgow


22/09/2017

This week's blog is written by Thomas Catterson, a volunteer at the Glasgow Night Shelter for destitute asylum seekers and refugees.  A very thought provoking read in which Tommy gives his personal insight into the daily struggles of those seeking sanctuary in our country.


Turning the corner from St Vincent street I see ahead of me the church where the Glasgow Night Shelter is based. It opens every evening, all year round, awaiting the resident asylum seekers. The weather today has been bright and breezy with a few heavy showers.The night shelter opens at 8pm and this evening there are a few asylum seekers standing outside smoking.

 

I arrive slightly later as I have been at a rendezvous point waiting on a named refugee who has been placed in the shelter from the Red Cross. The location of the Shelter is not allowed to be publicised and so asylum seeker referrals from other agencies have to be met at a pick up point in this case the Mitchell Library.

 

The people who are looked after at the Night Shelter are refused asylum seekers who are not eligible for support and are homeless, non-EU migrants who because of their immigration status cannot access normal homeless services. Other non-residents with temporary accommodation also arrive at meal time to share in the hot dinner and to check if any mail has arrived so it is very crowded at this time.


This group of people face multiple difficulties; often unable to speak English; without any family or friends who can help them; unable to do paid work; with an insecure immigration status; not knowing their rights and often scared to draw attention to their plight for fear of coming to the attention of the authorities, they are blocked from accessing any support that is funded by public money. Many no longer report to the Home Office because they are afraid of being detained and deported away from their family in the UK so they are wandering around Glasgow and other cities without any contact with the authorities.


On entering the community area of the church I see that two of the volunteers are making a hot meal for the residents in the kitchen and walking down a long dimly lit corridor I arrive at the tv room where there are six people sitting and moving about the room checking mail and eating donated food which has been placed on a trestle table. This room is very cramped with filing cabinets, donated male clothes stacked under the table, a couch, plates and cutlery stacked on shelves and a long fold up table on which the hot pots/trays of this evening's food are placed. Because of the shortage of space most of the asylum seekers eat standing up as there is no room for extra chairs. 


Many of the refused asylum seekers are so tired that they come in from the street and go straight to the hall and bed down for the night.  There are no shower facilities in this building only toilets. They sleep on the games hall floor on mattresses with no privacy and most sleep in the clothes they are wearing, probably rain wet and needing washed. They are mentally and physically exhausted by the extremely difficult circumstances of trying to exist on a day to day basis with no money and walking around Glasgow from 8am-8pm.

 

At 11pm lights are out in the sleeping area and the front door is locked. During the night some walk about unable to get to get to sleep and many have their sleep broken by people snoring or calling out in their disturbed sleep coupled with the  banging of the hall door as they exit and enter. Ear plugs are supplied.


Morning comes and all residents have be out of the church by 8am.

 

You can find out more about the work of the Glasgow Night Shelter at:

The Night Shelter web site  https://glasgownightshelter.org/

or http://www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk/support_us

 

 



Image: A Different View


15/09/2017

Brian Quail has spent his adult life demonstrating against nuclear weapons and war.  As we approach 20th September and the ratification of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, Brian writes our latest blog and gives his personal views on the how Scotland should move forward to becoming nuclear free.

 


You see things differently when you are flat on your back under a nuclear convoy. Above I see the drive shaft, steering rods, the other various parts of the vehicle, beyond that the driver sits in his cabin, with the other 19 vehicles in the convoy all working together, the powers that control the death machine, governmental, departmental, political, the unseen high priests of Moloch and Mammon serving our Gods of Metal, the unimaginable power and might I am opposing - all seem quite different when viewed from the ground.
 
For a start the sheer absurdity of defying such power is overwhelming. But defy it I must. I do infinitesimally small things because that is all I can do. And no one ever made a bigger mistake than the person who doesn’t do anything because he can’t do everything.
 
So the police go through the regulation five stages before I am dragged out from under the vehicle, arrested and taken off to the cell in the police station. Precious time alone to pray and think.
 
Of all the thoughts that crowd into my brain, this above all: I would not be here if we had made the right decision in the referendum of 2014, because today Trident would not be here - or anywhere in Britain. The cosmic joke is that what the government of an independent Scotland would have to do, is, well, absolutely nothing at all. If the four subs stay tied up at Faslane they are not deployed, and if they are not deployed they can’t fire their missiles. They are, in effect, disarmed. The Scottish government then requests that the UK government remove its missiles. End of.
 
Since John Ainslie has shown in his masterly work “Trident - Nowhere To Go” there is no other place that Trident can operate from in the UK apart from the Faslane/Coulport complex, it follows that a nuclear free Scotland means a UK without Trident.
 
For me, the 2014 referendum was the Trident referendum. Either I voted for a Unionist party, all of which supported the continued deployment of Trident, or I voted for an independence party, all of which maintain a principled rejection of Trident. The referendum was about a moral issue of the utmost gravity.

All the Churches maintain an anti-Trident stance, so their position should have been clear. But was it?
 
Back at the start of the nuclear age, Albert Camus wrote “What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest person. That they should get away from abstraction and confront the blood-stained face history has taken on today.”
 
That referendum was about much more than the governance of Scotland. It had a clear and unambiguous moral dimension, on which the churches had in fact already taken a firm stance. One side wanted a constitution banning nuclear weapons from Scottish land and waters, the other supported the present threat to use H Bombs.

I don’t think this was addressed from the pulpits. Churches can’t tell people how to vote, but I believe congregations should have been reminded that they had a clear choice between voting for the removal of nuclear WMD, and supporting their retention, and that the churches had in fact already condemned these.

Our job is to speak truth to power, not to try to be all things to all men. The collective failure of the churches to raise a prophetic voice on this occasion was in my opinion a failure to give Christian witness.

With a second referendum a real possibility, I can only hope and pray that this time the Church would speak out with a truly prophetic voice, so that there is no doubt of their rejection of Trident. Because for me Trident is the worst thing in the world, the machine for the extinction of all life. It is the undoing of Genesis.
 
Brian Quail
August 27, 2017


Image: Rubbish Talk with Marine Conservation Society


08/09/2017
A rubbish picture

8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in our oceans each year. This figure is only getting higher. Litter pollution affects wildlife, biodiversity and the proper functioning of the ocean – which means it affects us all as 50% of the oxygen we breathe comes from the sea.



One of the biggest issues is plastic pollution. Wildlife can eat plastic or become tangled up in it, plastic rubbish can smother habitats on the seafloor where fish spawn and we know that zooplankton eat plastic (watch this video proof), meaning that we are eating the plastic which has worked its way up the food chain right up to fish on our plates.

What's the solution? It can’t be said enough: reduce, reuse and recycle but there is something else we can do – clean the beach. Our solution is: Beachwatch.

Beachwatch: (not) a rubbish solution!

Beachwatch is the Marine Conservation Society’s UK-wide beach clean and litter survey programme and the Great British Beach Clean is the flagship event. This Citizen Science project has been running for over 22 years and we have used the beach litter data collected by our volunteers to shape campaigns and influence policy.

The Great British Beach Clean 2016

Last September our volunteers cleared up 286, 384 individual pieces of rubbish around the UK in a single long weekend. Looking at all the rubbish found, we built up a picture of what is happening around the UK – the full report is here.
We found that UK litter levels have dropped by 4% since 2015. This is great news but delve a little deeper and the situation looks less comforting. For example, we found 204.4 pieces of plastic/polystyrene for every 100m of coastline around the UK. Imagine walking along the beach and pacing out 100 steps and finding over 200 pieces of plastic within that area. This is the picture around our coast – more needs to be done!

Beachwatch data: a success story!

A commonly found item on our beaches is plastic bags. We cleaned, we collected and recorded and our data provided the evidence which helped bring in the 5p plastic bag charge.

Since 2011, when the first plastic bag levy came into force in Wales (soon followed by a levy in Northern Ireland (2012); Scotland (2014); and England (2015)) we have seen a 22% drop in the number of bags found on beaches – a measurable success. We are winning this battle against pollution in our seas! This is good news for marine life – whales and turtles mistake plastic bags for their favourite food – jellyfish! Sadly, the plastic becomes impacted in the animal's stomach and, unable to eat, they will starve. This problem is happening now – this is why data collection is vital – so we can actually change legislation and speed up behaviour change.
 
Wait a litter picking minute!

We can take heart from our plastic bag success – it's proof that our approach works but more needs to be done and we need your help! Beachwatch exists only because of our incredible volunteers and, right at this minute, rubbish is accumulating on our coastlines with every lapping tide, with every gust of wind more rubbish finds its way onto the coast, waiting for us to grab it with our litter pickers.

How can you help? Join us for The Great British Beach Clean 2017

Find a beach clean near you on our Beachwatch events page or contact our Team who can help you get started!
 
Get in touch with us
www.mcsuk.org/beachwatch
Email: beachwatch@mcsuk.org
Beachwatch Team:  01989 567807


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