Shocking data has revealed that hundreds of refugees and survivors of trafficking are being held in Scottish police cells for up to 72 hours.

The figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, show that more than 1,200 people have been detained by Police Scotland under immigration detention powers since April 2020.

The majority of those detained are from countries with high refugee recognition rates or high rates of human trafficking.

A worrying trend

The data provided in the FOI response, which you can read in full at the bottom of this page, reveals the number of people held by Police Scotland under immigration detention powers between April 1 2020 and April 30 2021. The figures are broken down by year, the nationality of the person detained, the police station in which they were held, and how long they were detained.

Our Policy Manager, Graham O’Neill said: “We’re really worried that people from countries which have high refugee recognition rates or high rates of human trafficking to the UK are being held in cells by Police Scotland. Indeed, they account for the vast majority of those held in these cells under immigration legislation. That is simply not right.”

No one should be punished for trying to reach a place of safety

The new Nationality & Borders Act makes it much harder for many people arriving in the UK in search of safety to access the asylum system or be identified as trafficking survivors.

There are currently very few so-called “safe and legal” routes open to people seeking safety. This leaves many people fleeing war and human rights abuses with no option but to make dangerous journeys in order to reach UK shores. The majority of people arriving in Scotland by “irregular routes” do go on to claim asylum.

We want to see a simple and transparent human rights-based approach to asylum. Trafficking survivors and people seeking safety need support, protection and safe accommodation while their claims are processed, regardless of how they arrived in the UK.

Graham added: “Police Scotland is receiving significant amounts of public money from the Home Office to do this, with little accountability for the safeguarding of these people from either party.

“We’re deeply concerned that the very principle of seeking asylum in the UK is being criminalised and met with increasingly punitive measures. A police cell is no place for somebody seeking refugee protection or who has survived trafficking to begin to rebuild their lives. We must do better than this.”

Read the full FOI response from Police Scotland below

FOI Police Scotland 25/7/22
Chris Afuakwah
Author: Chris Afuakwah