New Scots: refugee integration strategy 2018 to 2022

The New Scots refugee integration strategy sets out an approach to support the vision of a welcoming Scotland.

Needs of Asylum Seekers

"Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution."

Article 14 (1) Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The majority of people who reach the UK seeking safety from violence, war and persecution need to apply to be recognised as refugees when they arrive. This is called an asylum application. Many of the people seeking asylum in the UK arrive with few or no possessions and are destitute. They have no access to welfare benefits. However, the UK Government has a statutory duty under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 [49] to provide destitute asylum seekers with financial support and housing, if they do not have the means to support themselves and have nowhere else to stay. The 1999 Act established a 'dispersal' system, whereby destitute asylum seekers are housed in different parts of the UK on a no-choice basis, while their claims for protection are being assessed. Asylum seekers, who have the means to do so, must fund themselves and source their own accommodation during this process.

Asylum policy is reserved to the UK Government, and it has control over arrangements for the accommodation and financial support of asylum seekers, and the assessment of their claims for asylum. However, the Scottish Government has control over a range of matters that relate directly to the asylum process. Since the dispersal of asylum seekers to Scotland began, successive administrations at Holyrood have taken the position that integration should begin from the day an asylum seeker arrives in Scotland, and devolved services should, therefore, be organised to deliver this. This approach also reflects the wider commitment of the Scottish Government and all public bodies in Scotland to promoting equality of opportunity and social justice for everyone living here.

Glasgow is currently the only local authority area in Scotland where 'dispersed' asylum seekers are housed. Approximately 10% of the UK's dispersed asylum population is accommodated in Glasgow. A small number of people, who do not require asylum accommodation, live in different local authority areas across Scotland. Between 2000 and 2011, Glasgow City Council had a contractual agreement with the Home Office to accommodate and support asylum seekers, who had been dispersed to Scotland. Following a new tendering process, the contract for delivery of this service was awarded to Serco in 2012. This contract, known as COMPASS, ends in 2019. A tendering process is currently underway for the provision of accommodation and associated services from 2019.

The COMPASS contract allows for accommodation to be provided in other local authority areas in Scotland, and not just in Glasgow. However, Serco is required to consult with COSLA Strategic Migration Partnership and relevant local authorities about the opening up of any new dispersal areas. At the end of 2017, no new local authorities have agreed to become involved.

Services in Glasgow have adapted well to the needs of refugees and asylum seekers. The city has also benefited from increased cultural diversity and a younger demographic profile – Glasgow now has a growing and relatively young population, and the arrival of migrants in general, and asylum seekers specifically, has played a significant role in this regard. However, asylum seekers face many challenges. Most asylum seekers have been separated from loved ones abroad and continue to have significant concerns for their safety and wellbeing. The New Scots strategy recognises the need for a specific focus on supporting people through the asylum process to enable them to begin to rebuild their lives in a place of safety. They should be able to access support and services, feel safe and establish friendships and connections in their local communities. They should also have a positive experience of living in Scotland, which better equips them for the next stage of their lives, regardless of the outcome of their application.

Key issues identified through New Scots engagement

A great deal of feedback was received during the New Scots engagement that took place during Summer 2017 and a more detailed analysis of this will be published in 2018. However, some of the broad themes raised, which are relevant to the needs of asylum seekers, include:

1. The challenges that asylum seekers have in navigating the complexities and restrictions associated with the asylum process and asylum support system, and the impact that this can have on their integration.

2. The need for asylum seekers to be supported through the various stages of the asylum process, including through advocacy support, and for services to be tailored to support them. This should include consideration of how to mitigate particular vulnerabilities that can be faced throughout the asylum journey, including the pre-claim and post-decision periods.

3. The need for careful consideration of questions around the quality and location of asylum accommodation, in order that asylum seekers are safe and secure and are able to access the support and services that they require.

Objectives and Actions

Objectives and actions for each theme contribute to the overarching New Scots outcomes. New Scots is designed to be a dynamic strategy, which is able to adapt to new and emerging issues. New actions will be developed during implementation. The following initial actions set out the work related to the needs of asylum seekers which will be progressed in the first instance:

New Scots Outcome

Objective: what we want to achieve

Action: what we will do

2. Refugees and asylum seekers understand their rights, responsibilities and entitlements, and are able to exercise them to pursue full and independent lives.

Asylum seekers are supported to understand the asylum system and their rights and entitlements throughout the process, and are able to engage with services and systems accordingly.

Review and assess the effectiveness of information and support, including advocacy support, provided to or needed by asylum seekers.

Identify how interpretation and translation services can be improved to better meet the needs of asylum seekers.

Ensure that asylum seekers better understand and exercise their rights around access to travel support, where that is provided, and identify and seek to address any particular challenges for asylum seekers in this regard.

3. Refugees and asylum seekers are able to access well-coordinated services, which recognise and meet their rights and needs.

Services supporting asylum seekers are accessible, well-coordinated and responsive to the needs of asylum seekers, and support their integration into Scotland's communities.

Produce an up to date picture of the services and processes that support asylum seekers by building on previous work on mapping the asylum journey.

Build a better understanding of the needs of asylum seekers and the particular challenges that they face by identifying, gathering and sharing relevant data in relation to asylum in Scotland.

Work to address gaps that are identified in service provision and referral processes.

Share and roll out, as appropriate, best practice in service provision from elsewhere in the UK and beyond.

4. Policy, strategic planning and legislation, which have an impact on refugees and asylum seekers, are informed by their rights, needs and aspirations.

Policy, strategic planning and legislation in relation to asylum are informed by the needs and aspirations of asylum seekers and local communities.

Inform and influence the Home Office consultation and tendering process, in relation to the new asylum accommodation and advice contracts.

Work collaboratively with the successful bidder(s) after the awarding of the new asylum accommodation and advice contracts.

Inform and influence strategic planning around the widening of dispersal, and share expertise and learning with local authorities that agree to, or are considering, involvement.

Examine the implications of the Immigration Act 2016 and other UK and Scottish legislation that impacts asylum seekers and respond accordingly.

Support the response to the Scottish Parliament's Equalities and Human Rights Committee Inquiry and report into destitution, that are relevant to asylum seekers.

Support the engagement of asylum seekers in policy formulation and in the strategic planning and development of services for them.


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