A vision for asylum in Scotland after the referendum: new research aims to create policy debate post 2014

A vision for asylum in Scotland after the referendum: new research aims to create policy debate post 2014

A report (PDF) that sets out a vision for a ‘fair and humane’ asylum system following the result of Scotland’s 2014 referendum will be launched today (Friday, 18 Jan) at Scottish Refugee Council’s annual general meeting in Edinburgh.

The Scottish Refugee Council report, Improving the Lives of Refugees in Scotland after the Referendum: An Appraisal of the Options, outlines the options for policy on refugee issues under each of the potential outcomes of the referendum.

Informed by analysis of refugee policy in seven European countries as well as Canada, Australia and the US, the paper will help shape future Scottish policy whatever the result of the referendum.

The non-partisan report highlights a series of policy options aimed at improving the lives of people seeking asylum in Scotland under the various constitutional outcomes and aims to create debate that will ultimately allow people seeking asylum to access their rights. 

It gives recommendations for the UK or Scottish Governments in each case scenario recommending that if Scotland does not vote for independence the UK authorities should take the opportunity to make reforms on the reserved issue regardless.

It highlights the need to change the ‘culture of disbelief’ within the UK Border Agency, end destitution and stop the arbitrary use of detention.

In the case of the Scottish public voting for an independent Scotland, it recommends Scottish authorities consider creating a new agency responsible for asylum decision making,  allow people seeking asylum to work and use forced, rather that voluntary, return as a last resort.

The research concluded that in either case refugees should be allowed to integrate into life in Scotland from the moment of their arrival in the country, and be entitled to cash based support throughout the process.

John Wilkes, Chief Executive of Scottish Refugee Council, said: “We hope that our research into future asylum policy in Scotland – a policy that is fair, humane and effective – provides a blueprint for policy-makers whether at Westminster or Holyrood.

“As an independent charity Scottish Refugee Council takes no view on the outcome of the referendum itself and consequently we will not take a position on any side of the debate in the run up to the referendum. Whether the Scottish constitution changes significantly or the status quo maintains, the rights and dignity of people seeking sanctuary in Scotland must be respected and upheld.

“Our ground-breaking research provides policy-makers with the insights and information required to help build a Scotland where people fleeing torture, terror and human rights abuses can live in safety and contribute fully to Scottish society.”

Professor James Mitchell, Head of the School of Government and Public Policy, Strathclyde University and a member of the expert advisory group which helped steer the report, said: “This is an important contribution that will inform debate on Scotland’s constitutional future.  It takes no sides in the debate on whether Scotland should be independent but identifies the key issues that need to be addressed by all sides. 

“Its simple starting point is that how we treat the most vulnerable is a measure of a good society.  The report is a challenge to all who take sides in the debate on Scotland’s future.”

Professor Mitchell and John Wilkes will both speak at the Annual General Meeting in Edinburgh later today.

For more information or to arrange interviews contact Gary Christie, Head of Policy and Communications on 0141 248 9799 or 07850 930418

Notes to editors

  1. Scottish Refugee Council’s Annual General Meeting and Public Meeting takes place on Friday 18 January 2013 at Edinburgh City Chambers. Registration from 1.30pm
  2. To see the full report, Improving the Lives of Refugees in Scotland after the Referendum, go to www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk
  3.  Scottish Refugee Council is an independent charity which provides advice and information to men, women and children seeking asylum and refugees living in Scotland. We also campaign for fair treatment of refugees and people seeking asylum and to raise awarness of refugee issues. It administers grants from Refugee Survival Trust to destitute refugees and asylum seekers. For more information: www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk