WHEN six teenagers dubbed the "GlasgowGirls" boarded the 7.30am train from Glasgow to Edinburgh on Thursday, they were expecting to sit in the visitors' gallery of the Scottish Parliament.

But a phone call they received from the first minister's office when they arrived at Edinburgh Waverley station afforded them a different treatment: by that evening they had met Jack McConnell and been interviewed on several television channels.

The meeting was the culmination of a six-month campaign led by the teenagers to allow families facing the threat of deportation, who have been living in Scotland for years, to stay. It has now been credited with forcing the first minister to speak out for the first time about the treatment of asylum-seekers.

Along the way, the campaign has won qualified support from Glasgow City Council, Scotland's commissioner for children, and now the first minister, who is pressing the Home Office to end the practice of immigration officers using handcuffs and body armour in dawn raids on families of asylum-seekers.

The six pupils from Drumchapel High School who carried the campaign to Mr McConnell's office on Thursday come from as different backgrounds as you can imagine.

Four of them are the children of people who came to Scotland seeking asylum, and two are indigenous Scots.

They are bright, bubbly girls with clear affection for each other.

During their time in Scotland, the asylum-seekers in the group have picked up a Glaswegian lilt which blends and bumps against their imported brogues. They list interests that would not distinguish them from most Scottish teenagers: R&B music, films, going to town at the weekend and hanging out with their friends.

They have strong ambitions, too: going to university, studying to be a lawyer, a politician, a journalist. They are, in short, the kind of teenagers any Scottish parent would be proud of.

When confronted with pictures of themselves on television and in newspapers, they blushed and giggled. But they spoke with a steely determination about the importance of making their voices heard.

Emma Clifford, 17, who lives in Knightswood, said of the politicians she met: "I felt like people were congratulating us so much yesterday that they weren't actually listening to our questions. I think they should start congratulating us when the situation has changed, not yet."

While Mr McConnell was still basking in a rare show of goodwill from

some asylum campaigners, the girls were expressing a less favourable view of his actions.

Amal Azzudin, a 15-yearold Somalian refugee, asked the first minister if he could secure the release of her friends, the Vucaj family, who were arrested earlier this month in a dawn raid. "He said something about a protocol. I talked about why we can't concentrate on our education. He said he would do things but he didn't seem like he believed it. There was no expression in his face, " she said.

Agnessa Murselaj, the Roma Kosovan teenager whose arrest and detention in March became a cause celebre among politicians and asylum campaigners, also found it difficult to reconcile the first minister's intentions with previous actions.

She said: "He said he would talk to the Home Office to see if changes could be made. I thought, OK, but he could have done that before. He could have done it a long time ago.

"Where was he when I was locked up in Yarl's Wood (the asylum removal centre)? He didn't do anything for us then."

The girls' involvement began in March when Agnessa, her parents and two brothers were seized in a dawn raid by 14 uniformed immigration officers.

Sadush, her father, was handcuffed and the children were given a fewminutes to pack before being driven to Yarl's Wood, near Luton.

Within days, a petition by teachers and schoolfriends at Drumchapel High, which was highlighted by The Herald, had secured a review of their removal to Kosovo.

The Home Office released them nearly three weeks later when it was found that their deportation would contradict the advice of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and UNMIK, the UN administration which still governs the war-torn province.

Following the Murselaj family's return to Glasgow, the practice of dawn raids has been condemned by Kathleen Marshall, Scotland's commissioner for children, as terrorising asylum families.

A BBC2 documentary, The GlasgowGirls, helped highlight their situation, while the arrest of the Vucaj family, from Kosovo, earlier this month led hundreds of people to demonstrate outside the immigration office in Glasgow.

Asked why Mr McConnell felt the need to intervene this week, Agnessa


"Because maybe he feels sorry for us?"

But Amal, sitting next to her, disagreed: "No, it's because we're putting him under pressure, that's why.

We're making him feel ashamed. He doesn't know what we're going through. If he knew, he'd be ashamed."

The day after a frenetic, 17hour onslaught of meetings, interviews and travelling in which the girls were propelled once again into the media spotlight, they gave a moving description of the aspects of their lives they felt Mr McConnell had overlooked.

The week before there was a suicide in Yarl's Wood, which is now the preferred removal centre for asylumseekers with children. The news rippled through Drumchapel High, which has a high proportion of asylumseekers and refugees.

"A lot of people get really depressed about it, " said Ewelina Siwak, 16, a Polish Roma asylum seeker.

"They're saying, 'howmany people have to kill themselves? Who's next?'That's the main word that goes around the school: who's next."

She added: "Mr McConnell had never heard that story

He didn't knowwhat to say."