Independent Asylum Commission hails Scottish leadership on humane asylum policy

15 July 2008

The Independent Asylum Commission will hail the Scottish Government’s interventions to improve the treatment of asylum seekers when it presents its three reports of conclusions and recommendations to a Scottish audience, including  Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture Linda Fabiani, at a launch event at 11:00am St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art on Wednesday 16th July.

The Independent Asylum Commission’s inquiry – the longest of its kind on UK asylum policy - has made over 180 recommendations to restore public support for sanctuary, and improve the way we decide who needs sanctuary, how we treat them while they are here, and what happens when a person is refused sanctuary.  The Commission has called for an asylum system that makes better decisions and treats people with greater humanity and dignity.

The Commission, which sought evidence from individuals and organisations from across the UK (including three former Home Secretaries) also held a public hearing in Glasgow in June 2007. It is now publishing its findings and presenting its recommendations to ministers including the Scottish Government.

The Commission’s reports include a number of recommendations on issues on which the Scottish Government has already spoken out strongly in support, such as ending the detention of children, making the process of return more humane, and allowing asylum seekers to work.  The Scottish Government has pressed the Home Office on these issues, which are reserved to Westminster. It has also progressed practical solutions such as the lead professional and is in discussion about alternatives to detention and guardianship for unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

Commissioner Canon Nick Sagovsky said:

“The Scottish Government has seized the opportunity to make a difference to the lives of those seeking sanctuary and refugees where their devolved powers allow.  Real political leadership within the UK is being driven not by Westminster, but from Scotland.  In many respects – such as on the treatment of children, the use of detention and the conduct of forced removals – we would like to see the UK Government take a lead from Scotland, not the other way around.

“We cannot be complacent.  While the Scottish Government’s One Scotland campaign has had an effect and research suggests that Scotland is more welcoming to refugees than elsewhere in the UK, our own extensive public attitudes research, which included focus groups in Glasgow, showed that leadership is not enough - there is still a need for a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign to win long-term public support. 

"We hope that the Scottish Government will take on board our recommendations on public attitudes, and work with us to push for a fairer and more humane system of sanctuary in which we can all take pride.”

Linda Fabiani, Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture, said:

“The Scottish Government welcomes publication of the Independent Asylum Commission’s reports. What remains most important to us is that we treat those seeking asylum fairly, humanely and with dignity. Soon after taking up office, this Government took steps to ensure children of families seeking asylum had the same access to further and higher education that Scottish children have.

“Individuals’ and families’ lives must not be put on hold because they are awaiting a decision. All children must be allowed an education and we believe that the right to work should be restored –  allowing people to use their talent, skills  and experience in Scotland.

“We continue to press the UK Government on the Scottish Government’s opposition to early morning removals – to any kind of forcible removal of children – and to the detention of children at Dungavel.”

John Wilkes, Chief Executive, Scottish Refugee Council, said:

“Scottish Refugee Council welcomes the recommendations of the Independent Asylum Commission, particularly around children, women, torture survivors and other vulnerable groups such as lesbian, gay and transgender asylum seekers.

In the case of children, they should never be detained for the purposes of immigration. This position is supported by the Scottish Government and Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, who seek to respect the rights of every child in Scotland, regardless of their immigration status.

We urge the UK Government to adopt this position and to take heed of this and the reports’ other recommendations, which will enable them to fulfil their international obligations to all asylum seekers and refugees.”

END

Media Contact:

 

Aideen McLaughlin, Media and Communications Officer, Scottish Refugee Council, 0141 223 7927/07734030763.

 Editors Notes:

The Interim Findings publications and the three reports of recommendations, Saving Sanctuary¸ Safe Return and Deserving Dignity can be found at www.independentasylumcommission.org.uk.

The twelve Commissioners are: Rt. Hon. Sir John Waite (Co-Chair); Ifath Nawaz (Co-Chair); Countess of Mar; Shamit Saggar; Nicholas Sagovsky; Katie Ghose; Lord David Ramsbotham GCB CBE; Dr Silvia Casale; Earl of Sandwich; Zrinka Bralo; Bishop Patrick Lynch and Jacqueline Parlevliet. You can read biographies at www.independentasylumcommission.org.uk.

Within the exhibition space at the St. Mungo Museum can be found the photographic exhibition, Life After Iraq, showing the work of award-winning photojournalist Angela Catlin and writer Billy Briggs, who travelled to Syria to document the plight of Iraqis living there in increasingly desperate conditions. The exhibition, commissioned by Scottish Refugee Council, also gives an intimate insight into the lives of Iraqi refugees who have come to Scotland in search of safety