From: Emma Roddick MSP, Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees
To: Robert Jenrick MP, Minister of State for Immigration
I wrote to you on 25 September in relation to maximisation policy and await a response on information requested.
Since then you have made a significant announcement relating to closure of asylum hotels. I am also aware that measures to tackle your backlog in asylum decisions are starting to progress and are likely to create significant pressure for local authorities.
First, I request further information about your hotel closure plans, including timescales for closure of hotels in Scotland. The Scottish Government has long been clear of our view that hotels are not appropriate accommodation for people seeking asylum. While hotels can be used to provide temporary accommodation, their use for people seeking asylum is not comparable to use for other groups because of fundamental differences in their support options and long-term outcomes. I therefore seek your assurance that moves will be managed to ensure people are treated with dignity throughout.
Second, the Scottish Government has long held that the UK Government needs to invest in the UK asylum system to increase the speed and quality of asylum decisions. That is the only way to uphold our international responsibilities to recognise and protect refugees. Making good quality decisions in good time will reduce the risk that people who have been forced to find a place of safety spend years living with uncertainty and fear for their future. Particularly while restricted from working, which prevents the positive integration that is possible when people are able to use their skills to rebuild their lives with dignity and support themselves.
While I welcome your recognition that the asylum decision backlog must be tackled, I want to make clear that it is completely unacceptable and reckless for the UK Government to shift a significant burden onto local authorities without providing financial support. The UK Government must provide funding to local authorities and work constructively with them to ensure that people receiving a positive asylum decision are supported to move-on from asylum accommodation, without creating unmanageable pressure on housing and homelessness services over a short space of time. It is UK Government mismanagement of asylum decision making which has created the backlog and the consequences of that cannot be passed to local authorities without any support to manage them. I therefore request urgent provision of funding to local authorities to support move-on associated with the backlog clearance. I look forward to a timely response on this matter.
I also seek your assurance that the UK Government will not allow decision making to fall back again once the backlog has been cleared. Measures should be put in place now to ensure that the UK asylum system does not again reach a point of 175,000 people waiting for a decision. I am aware that the current focus is on the backlog, and understand that in July the definition for this was updated to consider any applications made before 7 March 2023. People who have arrived since then cannot become a future backlog, their applications should be considered in good time and with high quality trauma-informed decision making.
I look forward to your response on these matters and would welcome discussion of asylum issues.
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