Ending Destitution Together: progress report – year two 2022-2023

Year two progress report outlining the implementation and delivery of the actions of the Ending Destitution Together strategy.

4. Looking ahead

4.1 Continued commitment

As throughout the first year of delivery of the strategy, partners have continued to make a significant contribution to the implementation of the actions set out in the strategy. There is a recognition that despite continued and emerging challenges relating to the rights and entitlements of those at risk of destitution, through the continued commitment of partners and stakeholders, we will strive to achieve the vision of creating a Scotland where no one is forced into destitution, and everyone has their human rights protected, regardless of their immigration status. The Scottish Government and COSLA will continue to raise issues impacting the rights and entitlements of people living in Scotland and urge the UK Government to prevent, not create, destitution. Throughout the third year of delivery, we will work better to understand how legislation such as the Illegal Migration Act will impact levels of destitution and the associated consequences experienced by those with NRPF and ensure services remain informed of, and responsive to, new duties in this area.

4.2 UK Legislative Changes

We remain alive to the pressures that partners are under due to the ever-increasing complexity of the refugee and asylum landscape, as well as the complexity and restrictions imposed by the reserved nature of immigration and asylum. On 7 March 2023, the UK Government introduced the Illegal Migration Bill in the House of Commons. On 20 July 2023, the Bill received Royal Assent.

The Illegal Migration Act outlines significant changes to asylum and immigration law in the UK, which will further reduce the rights and entitlements of people to seek asylum in the UK and negatively impact on the limited support currently available to people with NRPF. The set of measures outlined in the Act will likely increase destitution and exploitation in our communities, with an anticipated rise in the number of people with inadmissible asylum claims, no means to regularise their status or seek employment and who will be subject to NRPF conditions.

The Scottish Government is opposed to the Illegal Migration Act and has repeatedly raised concerns that the measures taken under the Act will not achieve the outcomes the Home Office set out, but will increase the risks of exploitation and destitution. Local government in Scotland has also expressed concerns to the UK Government regarding the risks posed by new measures of the Act and the pressures new provisions will place on local services. Unintended consequences of the Act will increase the complexity and associated challenges local authorities face in ending destitution faced by vulnerable and destitute adults, children, and victims of exploitation. Evidence from councils in Scotland outlines that in 2021/22 local authorities supported over 800 NRPF cases under statutory duties, at a cost of at least £5.9m; it is anticipated that this Act will increase demand for such support and place unsubstantiated financial burdens on councils.

As co-owners of the strategy we remain committed to do all we can, within devolved powers, to protect communities and support people. However, we anticipate an increase in destitution, human trafficking and exploitation, as a direct result of the Act, and that such cases will be more likely to go unreported as a result of people being fearful to engage with services.

The Act includes provisions which will make people ineligible for permission to enter or remain in the UK and prevent them from obtaining British Citizenship, if they have ever met the conditions relating to removal from the UK, if they arrived on or after 20 July 2023. This will prevent people from regularising their status and is likely to result in increased risk of exploitation and destitution, including more people at risk of destitution presenting to local authorities for assistance.

Other provisions of the Illegal Migration Act are also likely to have a significant impact for local authorities in Scotland – including provisions which remove powers from Scottish Government to provide support to victims of trafficking and exploitation, and powers to compel local authorities to accommodate or to cease providing accommodation to unaccompanied children and young people in their care, and to hand over care of these children to the Home Office.

Both powers are entirely novel, and therefore untested, and it is difficult to say how they will work in practice in Scotland – it is, however, clear that they will have a significant impact upon the ambitions of this strategy and the steps which will be needed to mitigate any harmful unintended consequences of the legislation.

The Scottish Government and COSLA remain committed to protecting people living in communities across Scotland.


Email: ScotlandsRefugeeStrategy@gov.scot

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