British Red Cross and the Refugee Survival Trust have published a new report centred on the experiences of people seeking asylum, ‘How will we survive?’.

This report is in the context of the Destitute Asylum Seeker Service (DASS), through which we provide holistic advocacy for those at risk or in homelessness. Members of our team participated in the report, and we’re pleased to see it published today.

The report calls on the Scottish Government to fund a new model of peer support for people seeking asylum.

We know from our own experiences and those of our clients the positive impact peer support can have on people’s lives and very much welcome this recommendation.

The report’s other key recommendations include calling on the Home Office to:

  • establish the right to work for people waiting for a decision on their asylum claim
  • provide an initial cash grant to people entering the asylum support system so they have start-up support to purchase clothing, phones and other essential items
  • improve and speed up asylum decision-making so people aren’t stuck in limbo facing destitution as they wait for months, and even years, for a decision

Esther Muchena, Services Manager, Scottish Refugee Council said: “The report makes welcome recommendations on how we can bring an end to destitution, in Scotland and in the asylum system more widely. It builds on the excellent work of many refugee and housing rights charities, notably in the Roof Coalition and Fair Way Scotland. We need to see these latest recommendations be implemented as part of the existing Ending Destitution Together strategy as part of a coherent approach to ending destitution in Scotland. Peer support works best when it is underpinned by stable accommodation, good legal and professional holistic advocacy.

“As we consider how Scotland must accelerate action against destitution, we are facing two challenges. Locally, people across Glasgow could be facing eviction from asylum accommodation imminently as public health measures which were put in place over the COVID-19 pandemic come to an end. Evicting people seeking protection in winter is inhumane, and also ignores the very serious public health situation Scotland is still in. We are continuing to work with our friends and partners in the Roof Coalition to try and prevent these evictions from taking place, but the prospect is incredibly concerning. We are also advocating directly to Home Office and partners in Glasgow City Council, COSLA and Scottish Government.

“Nationally, the UK Government’s anti-refugee bill is currently going through parliament. The bill will essentially bring an end to the asylum protection route for the majority of people newly seeking asylum in the UK. These measures may also criminalise people who are simply seeking safety, and meet them with the brutality of the UK’s hostile environment. This will include people who arrive in the UK from countries which have high refugee recognition rates including Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.”

We are already seeing some of these changes in practice, including a shift to make the use of institutional accommodation like barracks or hotels the norm, and inadmissibility rules which are denying protection to people in need of sanctuary. The very sad reality of this situation is that strategy and practice in Scotland must now engage with these inhumane and hostile policies and plans. We, and our friends and colleagues across Scotland, are ready to support our clients as they navigate the complex and increasingly difficult asylum system and move on to rebuild their lives.

Claire Thomson
Author: Claire Thomson