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Press office

Our press office can supply information and comments on refugee and asylum issues and arrange interviews with spokespeople from across the organisation.

We work within a network of support agencies and community groups and can help put you in touch with others in the sector where relevant, including spokespeople from refugee communities on a case by case basis.

Contact us

Claire Thomson, Media Officer (Monday to Friday 9-5) or Pauline Diamond Salim, Media Manager (Tuesday to Friday 9-5)

Email: media@scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk
Phone:  07597012042 / 07739859872

Email us to be added to our press release list.

Please note that we are working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Stay informed

Keep up-to-date with our latest news, or sign up to get our monthly newsletter to your inbox. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Student journalists

We are very sorry but we are currently unable to support student journalists’ requests for interviews or comment. We value the important contribution student journalists make in reporting refugee issues and hope that we will be able to work with students again at a later date. In the meantime, please see links below for further sources of info.

Storytelling

Resources, information and media trainings for new Scots who are interested in speaking with the media.

FAQs for journalists

Can you help me to arrange an interview with a refugee?

Scottish Refugee Council are regularly approached by journalists looking to speak with people with lived experience of the asylum system or journey.

We work within a network of support agencies and community groups and can help put you in touch with others in the sector where relevant, including spokespeople from refugee communities on a case by case basis.

Please give as much notice as possible when requesting to speak to people with lived experience, whether through us or one of our partner agencies/community groups. It takes a lot for people to share their story or image publicly and requires a bit of behind-the-scenes work.

We encourage interviewers to:

  • think about what the benefit is for the individual who would be sharing their story
  • share questions in advance so that prospective interviewees can prepare
  • be mindful that people should not be expected to recount traumatic journeys or experiences if they don’t want to
  • take time to get to know people who are willing to share their story
  • offer a voucher as a thank you

Anonymity

Whilst many people will feel comfortable sharing their name in the media, remember that people are in a precarious situation and their story could be read in the country they fled from, putting themselves or other members of their family at risk. Please think about whether your story can be anonymised for people’s safety.

Please respect that individuals can change their mind at any time, and can say no without giving a reason.

Our Scottish Guardianship Service and Communications team have put together a checklist for journalists looking to engage with young people.

Any interview with someone under 18 requires the permission of a parent or guardian. For unaccompanied-asylum-seeking children in Scotland this will be their social worker.

Can this be anonymous?

Are you happy to avoid asking the young person why they can’t be in their home country?

Do you need a photo? If so, can it be a silhouette?

Can the guardian/another person sit in on the interview?

Reminder that the interview can be terminated at any time – please be aware of that

Can you turn off comments on any online publication of the piece?

Can you send over the young person’s quotes prior to publication?

How should I refer to people seeking safety in the UK - refugee? asylum seeker?

These terms are often interchanged. At Scottish Refugee Council, we use the word “refugee” to cover all groups seeking safety in Scotland. This includes:

  • people in the asylum system
  • people who have been refused asylum
  • people who hold refugee status in any form
  • people who have been resettled
  • people who have been brought to the UK through humanitarian evacuation

Instead of focusing on a person’s immigration status, we recommend focusing on the person themselves. For example, instead of using “asylum seekers”, use “people seeking asylum”, “people in need of safety”, “people fleeing war and persecution”, or even just “people/men/women/children”.

Is it relevant to mention their immigration status at all? If not, check with the individual how they would like to define themselves. For example, instead of “refugee artist”, they might prefer to just be known as “artist”.

Remember that refugee communities are culturally diverse and not homogenous. One person or group cannot represent everyone.

Are people fleeing Ukraine classed as refugees?

The UK Government are deliberately avoiding referring to people fleeing Ukraine as refugees and trying to manage refugees coming to the UK through its visa/ immigration system. This is enabling them to treat Ukrainians differently from people fleeing other crises, and it creates a hierarchy between different groups of people fleeing war and persecution based on nationality.

But yes, people fleeing Ukraine have been forced to flee their homes as a result of war, will receive some form of status and access to public funds, and will be able to access support from Scottish Refugee Council.

Please note that the Ukrainian community, as with many communities, may not be comfortable with “refugee” terminology.

How many people are fleeing Ukraine?

How many people are fleeing Ukraine?

This is a constantly evolving situation. UNHCR are keeping track as best as possible on the numbers of people fleeing.

How is the UK supporting people fleeing Ukraine?

We have put together some information for people in Scotland who are affected by the rapidly changing situation in Ukraine, and for people who want to find out how they can help.

Read more here

How does the UN Refugee Convention say that countries should protect refugees?

As signatories to the UN Refugee Convention, countries are bound by Article 33, which prohibits any State from returning a refugee to territories where their life or freedom is at risk because of  their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. This requires governments to assess peoples’ claim for asylum through an asylum system. Integration in the country of asylum is seen as one of  three ‘durable solutions’ for refugees.

Governments’ also commit to support refugees through resettlement, which is recognised as another durable solution (the third is voluntary return)

Temporary protection may be granted in exceptional circumstances involving a mass influx displaced people fleeing an emergency situation. In these conditions, it’s not practical or possible to process individual claims for refugee protection because of the time and evidence required to do a full and fair evaluation. Under these circumstances, it may be necessary to provide all members of a large group with a generalised form of protection until they are able to enter a regular asylum process. In March 2022, the EU adopted the Temporary Protection Directive for the first time in response to refugee flows from Ukraine.  

What is the difference between the legal statuses of ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘refugee’?

A person seeking protection in the UK is classed as an ‘asylum seeker’ until the Home Office makes a decision on their asylum claim. This process can take many months, or even years. People waiting for decisions currently do not have the right to work, access the welfare system, or access mainstream housing.

If the Home Office makes a positive decision on an asylum claim, a person will be granted ‘refugee status’ and leave to remain in the UK. Currently, having refugee status means having five years of leave to remain in the UK. After a person has held refugee status for five years, they may then apply for ‘indefinite leave to remain’. After one year of indefinite leave to remain, an application for British citizenship can be made .

It is always worth remembering that ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘refugee’ are administrative categories that are applied to people. These categories do not define a person’s identity.

What is 'resettlement'?

Resettlement is the selection and transfer of refugees, most often in tandem with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), from a state in which they have sought protection, to a third country that admits them – as refugees – with a permanent residence status. It is an expression of solidarity with the countries that host the majority of the world’s refugees, which are often among the world’s poorest. It also offers a ‘durable solution’ for refugees alongside local integration and voluntary return.

While we welcome any UK Government commitment to a resettlement programme, it’s important that these schemes don’t overshadow or replace the importance of protecting the precious human right of claiming asylum.

The majority of men, women and children forced to flee their homes because of war, persecution or human rights abuses, do so at short notice and by any means possible. Most will not be able to access resettlement schemes.

SRC has called on the UK Government to commit to a long-term programme of resettling 10,000 people from around the world who are seeking safety every year.

Recently, the UK government has introduced ‘bespoke’ schemes such as the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) or the British National (Overseas) visa scheme for Hong Kong Nationals. These do not provide the same rights as refugee resettlement schemes and should not be seen as a replacement for resettlement.

Is seeking asylum legal?

Yes. Everyone has the right to seek asylum in another country if their life is in danger in the home country. This right is enshrined in the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees https://www.unhcr.org/4ca34be29.pdf

Article 31 clearly states that refugees seeking sanctuary should not face penalties for entering, or being present in, a country without authorisation, provided that they:

  • are coming from a country or territory where their life or freedom was threatened
  • present themselves to the domestic authorities without delay
  • can show good cause for their presence

The UK is a signatory to the Convention.

How many people seeking asylum are in the UK?

The Home Office website details the numbers of asylum claims made in the UK and is updated on a quarterly basis. In the year ending December 2021, there were 48,540 asylum applications in the UK, a 68% increase on the previous year. Protection was granted to 12,835 people (a 72% grant rate)

How many people seeking asylum are there in Scotland?

As a rule of thumb, around 10% of people seeking asylum in the UK are dispersed to Scotland. In December 2021, there were 4,584 people in Scotland receiving asylum support.

How many people are displaced globally?

The latest figures available from the UNHCR show that 80 million people were displaced across the world at the end of 2021.

22 million of these people were refugees, under the UNHCR’s mandate, and 4 million people were classed as asylum seekers.

Why do people seek asylum?

Seeking asylum means seeking safety. Most people seek safety in a third country when their lives and/or their families’ lives are in danger in their home countries.

What proportion of asylum claims are successful?

In the year ending December 2021, there were 14,572 initial decisions made on asylum applications. 72% of these were positive decisions resulting in grants of asylum, humanitarian protection or alternative forms of leave. The rate of positive decisions varies considerably by nationality.

In the year ending December 2021, 4,035 appeals were lodged against decisions. 49% of these appeals were successful.

Where in Scotland do people seeking asylum live?

Almost all UK government provided housing for people seeking asylum in Scotland is in Glasgow.

What support are people seeking asylum entitled to in Scotland?

Before a decision is made on a person’s asylum claim, support is very limited. The Home Office currently states that each person is given £40.85 per week, which is loaded onto a debit card (what’s referred to as the ASPEN card). However, many people seeking asylum were moved into institutional accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic and were no longer entitled to this allowance. In November 2020, it was announced that people in this accommodation would be given £8 per week.

What do we mean by institutional accommodation?

By institutional accommodation, we mean the use of places like barracks or hotel rooms to house people seeking protection. This is instead of placing people in flats or houses within local communities.

When people seeking safety are given accommodation within local communities, it is much easier for them to make friends, settle in and have a degree of  control over their own lives.

How do people seeking asylum reach Scotland?

People seeking asylum are mainly ‘dispersed’ to Scotland by the Home Office from south east England.

How many people seeking safety are in Scotland as a result of resettlement programmes?

Around 3,000 people were resettled in council areas across Scotland through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. The scheme opened in January 2014 and closed to new arrivals on 25 February.

Which parts of Scotland are part of the resettlement scheme?

People who came to Scotland via the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme were dispersed across all of Scotland’s local authority areas.

CoSLA performs a coordination role between Scottish local authorities and the Home Office to identify suitable resettlement locations for families and individuals based on their needs and circumstances. All of Scotland’s councils are supportive of the scheme.

What are the main nationalities of people seeking protection in Scotland/the UK?

Most people seeking safety are from countries affected by civil wars, terrorism and where human rights violations are widespread. According to Home Office statistics, the top ten countries of origin for people seeking protection in the UK in the year ending September 2021 were:

  1. Iran
  2. Eritrea
  3. Albania
  4. Iraq
  5. Syria
  6. Sudan
  7. Afghanistan
  8. Vietnam
  9. Pakistan
  10. Bangladesh

The top ten countries people who access Scottish Refugee Council services have come from are below.

The top ten countries individuals who access our Refugee Integration Service come from are:

  1. Iran
  2. Iraq
  3. Sudan
  4. El Salvador
  5. Nigeria
  6. Syria
  7. Eritrea
  8. Pakistan
  9. Vietnam
  10. Kuwait

The top ten countries individuals who access Scottish Refugee Council’s Destitution Service come from are:

  1. Iraq
  2. Iran
  3. Syria
  4. Egypt
  5. Pakistan
  6. Zimbabwe
  7. Eritrea
  8. Sudan
  9. Namibia
  10. Afghanistan

The top ten countries individuals who access Scottish Refugee Council’s Family Keywork Service come from are:

  1. Namibia
  2. Iraq
  3. Syria
  4. Nigeria
  5. Pakistan
  6. Sudan
  7. China
  8. Albania
  9. Iran
  10. Zimbabwe

What is Scottish Refugee Council's response to the UK Government's Nationality and Borders Bill?

Scottish Refugee Council is deeply concerned by the UK Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill. You can find out more about why we are opposed to this legislation and what we’re doing to help mitigate against the worst impacts of this cruel Bill here.

 

Have people from Afghanistan begun to arrive in the UK?

The recent evacuations from Afghanistan – which have now ended – took place under the UK Government’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) and Ex-Gratia Scheme, which are separate arrangements that were launched before the current crisis began.

On Wednesday 18 August, the Prime Minister announced that the UK would resettle 20,000 people (mainly women and children) fleeing the Taliban as part of a new Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme. This scheme will be open to “people in the region” and will include 5,000 people within the first year. Although we welcome this commitment, we are still waiting for more information about how the scheme will work in practice, when it will begin and who is eligible for resettlement.

The UK Government has confirmed that if the Nationality and Borders Bill is passed, anyone arriving in the UK from Afghanistan via an “irregular route” will not be eligible for asylum and could face criminalisation. This will apply to Afghan refugees who are not chosen to be part of a resettlement scheme.

What's the difference between Ex-Gratia, ARAP and the Afghan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme?

The Ex-Gratia Scheme is due to run until 30 November 2022. It is only open to Afghans employed by the UK Government with at least 12 months continuous service on the frontline. The scheme was launched in 2013 to support locally employed staff, who had, or would, lose their jobs as a direct result of the UK military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Those eligible can apply for relocation to the UK for a period of 5 years. They will be offered the chance to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK at the end of this 5-year period.

The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme was launched in April 2021. It aims to resettle Afghan nationals who currently work, or have previously worked, for the UK Government in Afghanistan and whose lives are at risk from the Taliban as a result. The UK government expects to relocate 5,000 people to the UK this year through the ARAP scheme.

In addition, the UK Government announced that 20,000 Afghan refugees who have been forced from their homes by the current crisis will be resettled in the UK as part of the Afghan Citizen’s Resettlement Scheme. This scheme, which is separate from ARAP, was formally opened on 6 January 2022.

How many Afghan refugees are expected to arrive in the UK through these schemes?

The UK Government has said it will resettle 20,000 people fleeing Afghanistan as part of the Afghan Citizen’s Resettlement Scheme. Within the first year, the scheme aims to welcome 5,000 people, mainly women and children.

It is expected that a further 5,000 Afghans who worked for the UK Government in Afghanistan will be resettled in the UK this year, under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy.

We can’t be sure how many people will make the long and difficult journey to the UK to seek asylum on our shores. We’re urging the UK Government to rethink the Nationality and Borders Bill. If passed in its current form, it will make arriving here to claim asylum by an “irregular route” illegal. This would mean people fleeing for their lives could face criminalisation and time in jail, just for travelling to the UK to seek safety.

We’re also calling for these relocation and resettlement schemes to be broader and more flexible, so that more people can reach safety quickly.

It is not yet clear how many Afghan refugees will arrive in Scotland, although the Scottish Government has confirmed that we are ready and willing to welcome people fleeing the Taliban.

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