Scotland’s First Minister calls on incoming Prime Minister to overhaul the ‘failed’ UK asylum system

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On World Refugee Day in the Scottish Parliament, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has called on the UK Government to make fundamental changes to the way in which people seeking asylum are dealt with by the UK Government.

Responding to a question by Ruth McGuire MSP during First Minister’s Questions, the First Minister acknowledged Refugee Festival Scotland and the positive contribution that refugees make to Scotland and the pride that Scotland should feel in the welcome it has given those who have field war, torture and terrorism. She went on to critique the inadequacies of the UK asylum system,

“I would certainly call on the incoming Prime Minister to immediately overhaul the current failed asylum system.  We urgently need a new process that is based on some very important and basic principles, fairness, dignity, respect for human rights and one that doesn’t leave people at risk of destitution or homelessness with other public services having to pick up the pieces.”

The First Minister singled out the need for a 28-day time limit on immigration detention, and a ban on the detention of children and pregnant women and she supported.

Patrick Harvie MSP raised the issue of the immediate situation of people facing eviction by SERCO form their home, noting that, “they need that emergency accommodation to be available and they need it now.”

The First Minister responded that, “The Scottish Government will continue to work with Glasgow City Council or any other Council in this situation to make sure that the support asylum seekers need is there and that is an ongoing obligation and responsibility and that includes access to accommodation.”

She also called on the UJ Government to immediately provide funding to local authorities accepting ‘dispersed’ asylum seekers so that they could support integration from day one.

Gary Christie, Head of Policy at Scottish Refugee Council:

“On World Refugee Day and the start of Refugee Festival Scotland, we rightly celebrate refugees as assets to Scotland and celebrate the welcome that Scotland offers people in need and the friendships that have been formed within new communities.

However, it is equally important to call out what is wrong with the current way in which people are given international protection in the UK.  We fully support the First Minister’s critique of the asylum system. We need a radical rethink which puts people, often in extremely vulnerable situations, at the heart of the system. 

A process that has destitution and homelessness built into it cannot be a system that anyone supports.  We see many people who claim asylum, experience various periods of destitution to be finally recognised as refugees.

We need Serco to immediate stop its plans to evict refused asylum seekers through lock changes. We need the Home Office to fundamentally change its process for dealing with refused asylum

And we need the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council to ensure there is a safety net for people who are refused – a roof over their head and the opportunity to received expert advice and support.”