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.


" Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

Article 25 (1) Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, the Home Office has a duty to provide asylum seekers with accommodation, if they have nowhere else to stay while their claim is assessed. This is provided through regional accommodation contracts in asylum dispersal areas throughout the UK. Glasgow has been the only dispersal area in Scotland since this approach was established in 1999.

Asylum seekers can put their name on a social housing list, while their application for asylum is being considered, but they cannot be allocated accommodation until they have been granted refugee status. However, once a person has received refugee status, they have the same rights to access housing as anyone legally resident in Scotland.

The Scottish Government's vision for housing is that all people in Scotland live in high quality sustainable homes that they can afford and that meet their needs. Homes Fit for the 21 st Century [62] sets out the Scottish Government's strategy and action plan for housing to 2020. This includes an ambition to increase the number of homes in Scotland; offer different and flexible tenures for economic growth, social mobility and strengthened communities; and improve housing standards.

There is a range of tenure options in Scotland: owner-occupied properties; the private rented sector; council housing; and housing association properties. Scotland has a housing options approach. This means that when a person approaches a local authority with a housing problem, they will be advised about their housing options in the widest sense, to make them aware of the choices available to them. There are five regional housing options hubs working across Scotland to develop housing options, through a combination of sharing practice, commissioning joint training and research.

Social landlords [63] have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 and the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 to promote equal opportunities and to ensure that all people, including refugees, receive fair access to their housing and housing services.

Scotland has among the strongest rights in Europe for people facing homelessness. In Scotland, a refugee is not considered to have formed a local connection with the local authority area where they lived in dispersal accommodation. This makes it easier for newly recognised refugees in Scotland to seek homelessness assistance from any Scottish local authority. Priority need was abolished in 2012, meaning that a new refugee, if homeless, can access assistance without having to demonstrate that they are particularly vulnerable. Housing benefit, administered by the local authority, provides the means for most new refugees to cover the cost of their new home.

Local authorities and housing associations have a duty to provide assistance to disabled tenants to help them to live safely at home. The assistance may be in the form of equipment and/or adaptations. The Scottish Social Housing Charter [64] describes what tenants can expect from social landlords. The Charter contains outcomes covering, among other things, equalities and access to housing and support.

Some refugees and asylum seekers find themselves homeless and face many barriers in accessing services. A short life Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group [65] has been established to eradicate rough sleeping and transform temporary accommodation. The needs of refugees and asylum seekers will be considered as part of this. It is supported by a five year £50 million Ending Homelessness Together fund and will make recommendations to the Scottish Government early in 2018.

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 housing, include:

1. Availability of appropriate housing. This included the location of housing, where this is in already deprived areas, and far from services which refugees and asylum seekers need to access. The poor quality of some housing and its suitability was a key concern.

2. Refugees and asylum seekers feeling safe in their own home was raised as a key concern. Engagement feedback included accounts of racial harassment, threats of violence and intimidation from neighbours and people in their local area. Some refugees and asylum seekers indicated a fear to report issues or concerns to their housing provider, in case they lose their housing. Asylum seekers raised concerns about risks when allocated accommodation with strangers, who may be prejudiced against them. The LGBTI community in particular highlighted incidents of being accommodated with people, who are homophobic.

3. Support and advocacy to help people to access their housing options and in setting up home. This included issues around rights and responsibilities; information about how to set up utilities and services; and support to move and to furnish new homes.

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 housing, which will be progressed in the first instance:

New Scots Outcome

Objective: what we want to achieve

Action: what we will do

1. Refugees and asylum seekers live in safe, welcoming and cohesive communities and are able to build diverse relationships and connections.

Refugees are able to fully access support to settle in their new home, and as a result are able to settle and integrate successfully.

Improve refugee and asylum seeker access to support, advice and advocacy from the third sector and community to help with settling and orientation in their new homes and communities.

Ensure that housing services that work with refugees and asylum seekers are aware of safe reporting methods, and are using third party hate crime reporting to increase the numbers of people reporting hate crime.

Start dialogue with LGBTI organisations in regard to particular issues faced by LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers, and raised through the New Scots engagement process in relation to accommodation and issues of safety.

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

A range of suitable housing options is available to refugees in Scotland.

Ensure that Housing Hubs make housing options information easily accessible to refugees and asylum seekers within all local authority areas, to enable refugees to better understand and exercise their housing rights and options.

New refugees are supported to move from asylum accommodation to a more permanent home, during the 28-day period, by agencies working together to ensure they are aware of their long-term options and are not left without somewhere to live.

Continue to build on partnerships with Registered Social Landlords ( RSLs) [66] in Glasgow, including the possibility of transferring tenancy agreements to allow new refugees to remain in their asylum accommodation.

Build partnerships with local authorities and RSLs outside Glasgow to open up alternative routes into settled housing.

Develop an 'Exit Pack' for new refugees, to ensure they know how to access services to set up their new home.

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

Refugees are supported to understand the full range of housing options available to them and as a result are able to make the best possible choice for them.

Include information on best practice working with refugees and asylum seekers within the housing options training toolkit.

Promote the Scottish Refugee Council's Housing Practitioners' Guide to Integrating Asylum Seekers and Refugees throughout Scotland's housing providers.

Start dialogue with LGBTI organisations in regard to particular issues faced by LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers, and raised through the New Scots engagement process in relation to accessing suitable accommodation and support.

Refugees are able to fully access support to settle in their new home, and as a result are able to settle and integrate successfully.

Share best practice and develop approaches to service delivery to improve refugee and asylum seeker access to support from the third sector and community, to help with settling and orientation in their new home and area.


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