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  • Writer's pictureThe Gaudie

Aberdeen Gathers to Protest Rwanda Scheme

Crowd declares solidarity with migrants as fears of asylum seeker deportations rise

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

The alarm was raised late on Wednesday evening - “Asylum seekers at risk. Gather outside Marischal College. 10.45 AM.”

As part of recently passed legislation, asylum seekers who have entered the UK illegally could be deported to Rwanda, a decision which has sparked criticism from activists and human rights groups.

Over the last week, anti-deportation protests have spread across the nation. 

And on Thursday, those protests came to Aberdeen. 

A waiting game...

As the warm sun illuminated the sparkling granite of Marischal College, several dozen demonstrators took up positions outside Police Scotland HQ, checking side exits for signs of Home Office vans. 

A number of asylum seekers were due at Marischal for routine immigration check-ins, beginning at 11 AM. 

Activists feared that these individuals could be detained as part of the Rwanda scheme.

“We want people to understand their rights”, one activist told the assembled crowd. 

A wide range of Aberdonians attended the protest, including city council co-leaders Christian Allard and Ian Yuill, who held a large black banner reading #WeareAberdeen between them.

As one male passerby angrily addressed the pair over their support for asylum seekers, Mr Allard emphatically replied, ‘I am a migrant.’

Mr Allard, who was born in France, emigrated to Scotland in the 1980s. 

AUSA Officers Attend Protest

A number of Aberdeen Uni students also attended the demonstration, including three sabbatical officers from Aberdeen University Students’ Association (AUSA). 

Speaking to The Gaudie, Student President Vanessa Mabonso Nzolo said: “Instances like these, what’s happening to refugees, are [visible examples] of what is actually going on in the UK.”

“Everyone should be aware of what your rights are in this situation.”

Vice President for Communities Ainhoa Burgos Aguilera added: “It’s very important that we have a presence here… Aberdeen and the UK should be a home for everyone.”

Vice President for Welfare Sai Shraddha S. Viswanathan told The Gaudie that many students from international backgrounds experience similar challenges.

“Historically, the UK as an economy was built on the backs of black and brown people”, she noted. 

“There are certain divisions or sects of people who are considered as second or third class citizens coming in.”

“A lot of our students have the lived experience of being a student but also being seen as not desirable and being seen as ‘the other’ in this country.” 

“We should be doing more.”

Ms Viswanathan also mentioned AUSA’s Borderless campaign, which was launched early in 2023.

As part of the scheme, student officers have lobbied for an increase in diverse representation among University staff and an end to University investments in companies which are linked to border control measures.

Back at Marischal College, the protest wrapped up around 12.30. 

No detentions took place. This time.


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