CAMPAIGNS: Kurd's death shifts focus to Glasgow - Crisis Management

Client: Glasgow City Council

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Murder of Firsat Dag and resultant demonstrations

Timescale: 5 August - ongoing

Budget: Undisclosed



On 5 August Firsat Dag from Kurdistan, who was seeking asylum in the UK,

was stabbed to death in Glasgow. He had been living in the tough

Sighthill area for two weeks.



Later that day, asylum-seekers marched through Glasgow and held a

demonstration outside the City Chambers.



The following week an Iranian refugee, Davoud Naseri, was stabbed. He

survived, declaring that he hated Glasgow and its people.



The main focus of media attention after the murder was not the police

investigation, but Glasgow Council's policy of housing asylum-seekers in

Sighthill, a socially deprived housing estate.



Objectives



The Council's main objective was to inform both asylum-seekers that

their plight was not going unrecognised and also the local population

that their needs were not being ignored in favour of asylum-seekers.



Glasgow is the only local authority in Scotland that offered to take

asylum-seekers in the Government's dispersal programme.



Groups housed in other areas of the city have integrated relatively

successfully. The message that Glasgow welcomes those seeking asylum was

in danger of getting buried by negative press.



Strategy and Plan



As soon as the police reported the demonstration, a council press

officer met the protesters and arranged for a meeting the following day

with council leader, Charlie Gordon.



It was decided that senior personnel, such as councillor Archie Graham,

the chair of Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance, would be made available to

the media round-the-clock.



In response to international media coverage, for example from AP in the

US and a German documentary crew, a series of press conferences with the

police enabled the council to denounce the murder and reinforce the

message that, unlike some areas, Glasgow welcomes those seeking

asylum.



It was equally important to get across the message that voices of the

indigenous community were being heard.



It was announced that a meeting would take place where the council would

receive a list of demands from the asylum-seekers. The council would

then respond with a meeting one week later.



As the focus of the media's spotlight on asylum issues shifted to

Glasgow, all the national press and broadcast networks demanded

interviews and information.



It was crucial to project the council's message in the face of negative

press briefings by various interest groups.



Measurement and Evaluation



Glasgow council's press office has a computerised monitoring package but

technical problems meant it could not be used. Enquiries and coverage

were recorded and processed by hand.



Arrangements were made to separate all press cuttings relating to the

issue from day-to-day coverage of council business. It is too early for

a full evaluation.



Results



A package of emergency measures was announced by the council one week

after the murder. Some have already been implemented, including the

opening of a library and Lifelong Learning Centre in Sighthill in record

time.



Improving long-term relations between the indigenous community and

asylum-seekers will be a major challenge for Glasgow council as

demonstrations continue to take place.



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