UK Refugee agencies unite to demand a fair and just asylum system

Media Release

Embargo Friday 23 October, 00:01


UK Refugee agencies unite to demand a fair and just asylum system

Scottish Refugee Council autumn conference, Friday 23 October 9am-12.30pm


Heads of both the Scottish and British Refugee Councils will unite in Glasgow this week to demand immediate changes to the UK asylum system.


John Wilkes and Donna Covey, Chief Executives of the Scottish Refugee Council and British Refugee Council respectively, will open the Scottish Refugee Council annual conference this Friday (23 October, 9am-12.30pm) with a call for a ‘fair and just asylum system’.


Among their demands will be:

-       The right for those seeking asylum to work whilst awaiting the decision on their claim

-       The end of Section 4 and replacement with cash support for ALL asylum seekers until they return to country of origin or are given status in the UK


Gerry Hassan, writer, commentator and Demos Associate, will also be speaking.


Interviews will be available prior to and on the day at selected times. Please contact Media and Communications Officers Clare Harris or Karin Goodwin to arrange: 0141 223 7927/ 07734 030763/


John Wilkes said:

“Changes to the asylum system just last week show that the welfare and dignity of those seeking asylum is being eroded day by day. The next 12 months will see even more profound changes to the asylum system in the UK. We must not forget that at the centre of this system are vulnerable people who have fled persecution and danger.


“Scotland has earned a strong reputation in standing up for the rights of those seeking sanctuary. Let’s keep putting pressure on the authorities at all levels to ensure these rights continue to be recognised.”


Donna Covey said:

“We appear to be moving further and further away from a system that is fair and just.  Each year, it becomes harder for refugees to get to Britain and claim asylum.  When they do, measures introduced just last week will mean that many will have to travel the length of the country to make their claim.

“They are prevented from working while their claim is decided.  And then there are those who are rejected but who can’t go home.  They are left to starve on our streets, with no support and no entitlement to work.  

“We are not asking for much.  All we ask is that people whose lives are in danger are able to get to Britain, have their claim for asylum heard fairly, be adequately supported and allowed to work, and helped to integrate when they are given leave to stay.  It is in everyone’s interests that happens.”




Notes to Editors:


-       The Scottish Refugee Council autumn conference takes place on Friday 23 October from 9am to 12.30pm at 29, Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow. Workshop events will take place in the afternoon. A full copy of the conference programme is available here:


-       The UK Border Agency is shortly expected to consult on changes to the immigration system with wide ranging implications for asylum seekers and refugees living in Scotland and the UK. Central to this is the draft Simplification Bill which aspires to overhaul all of the asylum and immigration legislation over the last 30 years.


-       On 14 October major administrative changes meant that those claiming in-country asylum need to travel to Croydon to do so, instead of entering the process at Liverpool or Glasgow. These changes also mean that those who are classed as destitute but are submitting fresh evidence on their asylum claims must travel to Liverpool or Glasgow UKBA offices to do so instead of being able to submit claims by post. We fear that this will result in street homelessness.


-       New research being released by Scottish Refugee Council on October 23 shows that high numbers of asylum seeker are surviving on Section 4 support, provided at the rate of £35 a week in the form of vouchers, for long periods of time.


-       Scottish Refugee Council advocates that all of those seeking asylum should be permitted to work whilst awaiting the result of their claim. This would allow them to support themselves and their families without relying on government support, and would also enable them to better integrate into host communities.


-       Scottish Refugee Council provides help and advice to those who have fled human rights abuses or other persecution in their homeland and now seek refuge in Scotland. We campaign to ensure that the UK Government meets its international, legal and humanitarian obligations and to raise awareness of refugee issues. For more information see