New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy: 2024

A strategy supporting the integration of refugees, people seeking asylum and other forced migrants within Scotland’s communities. The strategy is led jointly by the Scottish Government, COSLA and Scottish Refugee Council.

Annex C: Scottish legislative and strategic context

A number of strategies and policies support different aspects of integration and day-to-day life for refugees and people seeking asylum and complement the work of the New Scots Strategy. While this context is not designed to be exhaustive, it highlights some of the key legislation, provisions and approaches, which will support the Strategy during implementation.

The National Performance Framework (NPF)[36] is Scotland’s wellbeing framework. It sets an overall purpose and vision for Scotland, highlighting the broad National Outcomes that support the purpose. It also measures how well Scotland is progressing towards those outcomes, combining measurement of how well Scotland is doing in economic terms with a broader range of wellbeing measures. The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 enshrines the National Outcomes in law and places a duty on public authorities to have regard to them in carrying out their functions. The Act also requires the National Outcomes be reviewed every five years and with the current set published in 2018, a review is currently underway. A revised National Performance Framework will be published in Autumn 2024.

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation. It protects people from discrimination on the basis of the protected characteristics of: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. Everyone will have one or more of the protected characteristics, including refugees and people seeking asylum. Therefore, while status as a refugee or a person seeking asylum is not in itself a protected characteristic, both groups will benefit from the protection afforded.

The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED),[37] which is part of the Equality Act, requires the Scottish Government and other listed public authorities to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people with different protected characteristics. Scottish Ministers have used their powers to support compliance with the PSED by placing detailed requirements on Scottish public authorities through regulations; for example, public authorities across Scotland must set, publish and report on Equality Outcomes. The Scottish Government’s Equality and Mainstreaming Report 2023[38] outlines how the Scottish Government is working to progress equality as a policy maker and as an employer. There is also an ongoing programme of improvement activity in relation to the effectiveness of the PSED regime in Scotland.

The Race Equality Framework for Scotland (REF)[39] was published in 2016, setting out a long-term ambition and approach to promoting race equality and tackling racism and inequality between 2016 and 2030. A progress review on anti-racism in Scotland was published in the summer of 2023,[40] and provides a detailed examination of progress made on commitments contained within the REF and the Immediate Priorities Plan (IPP) (2021-2023).[41] Progress continues to be made across many areas, including education, employment, housing, health and culture and the Scottish Government is determined to embed anti-racism both internally and across the public sector. Developing internal governance and accountability will be a key piece of this work, and the best way to take forward outstanding commitments following the progress review is being considered. An Anti-Racism Observatory is also being implemented as part of the recommendations from the Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity,[42] in recognition of the need for a strategic and coherent anti-racism approach to data, strategy and policy in Scotland.

The Scottish Government is working with Disabled People’s Organisations to develop and implement a Disability Equality Immediate Priorities Plan that delivers actions to help meet the barriers faced by disabled people.[43] The plan will focus on finding solutions to address the challenges and obstacles identified by disabled people and is anticipated that it will be published in 2024. This plan will be a step towards developing a Disability Equality Strategy that will be aimed at tackling the systemic barriers that affect the daily lives of disabled people and impact on disability poverty. Twenty per cent of people living in Scotland have a long term limiting health problem or disability. This will include some refugees and asylum seekers. Refugees who have come to Scotland through the UK Government’s resettlement programmes are selected based on UNHCR criteria for vulnerable groups. This includes disabled refugees.

Equally Safe is Scotland’s Strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls and addressing the underlying attitudes and systems that perpetuate it. It aims to ensure women and girls live free from violence, abuse and exploitation and covers domestic abuse, rape, sexual assault, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and prostitution. The Equally Safe Strategy was refreshed in December 2023[44] and an accompanying Delivery Plan is expected to be published in Spring 2024. Many refugee and asylum seeking women and girls have faced these issues and may require specific support as they settle in Scotland.

Scotland’s National Action Plan to Prevent and Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation[45] (FGM) recognises that FGM is a complex and often hidden form of abuse. It builds on work taking place across Scotland to bring best practice together and take all necessary steps to protect women and girls from harm. Under the Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005,[46] it is a criminal offence to have FGM carried out in Scotland or abroad. The Female Genital Mutilation (Protection and Guidance) (Scotland) Act 20204[47]aims to strengthen the existing legislative framework for the protection of women and girls from FGM and includes two provisions for FGM Protection Orders and statutory guidance. Work will continue to ensure effective implementation of the Act and eliminate this harmful practice. FGM does not only impact refugee communities, but it can be a reason why women and families need to seek protection outside their country of origin.

Scotland’s Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy[48] was published in 2017 and was a requirement of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015,[49] which introduced a single offence for all kinds of trafficking for the first time and strengthened the existing law. Significant progress has been made across Scotland under the framework provided by the Strategy and this is set out in the published progress reports.[50] Following an extensive period of engagement, the second review of the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy was published in September 2023.[51] The review recommended that a refreshed Strategy should be developed, working collaboratively both with survivors and stakeholders across Scotland and beyond. The refresh of the Strategy formally commenced in December 2023. Refugees and people seeking asylum may have been trafficked on their journey to the UK and can be vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers and others as they seek safety.

The Ending Destitution Together Strategy[52] was published jointly by the Scottish Government and COSLA in March 2021, and is a Strategy to improve support for people subject to No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). People who are subject to NRPF are not permitted under UK immigration rules to access most mainstream benefits, local authority housing or homelessness services. This includes people who have applied for asylum. The Strategy is the first of its kind in the UK and sets out the ambition of the Scottish Government and COSLA to ensure the people living in communities across Scotland do not experience destitution because of their immigration status. Actions within the Strategy aim to: create a humane environment for people with NRPF who are restricted from accessing certain types of public support on the basis of their immigration status; access practical things people need, particularly at a point of crisis (including access to food, shelter and healthcare); increase access to specialist advice and supporting advocacy needed to navigate asylum and immigration systems and secure rights (including specialist legal advice); and promoting fair access and participation for everyone (including people with lived experience informing service design, involvement in communities, and employment).

The Hate Crime Strategy for Scotland,[53] published in March 2023, sets out the Scottish Government’s vision for a Scotland where everyone lives free from hatred and prejudice. The Hate Crime Strategy Delivery Plan[54] was published in November 2023 and sets out a range of activity that the Scottish Government will take forward with partners over the next two years to tackle hate crime. The Scottish Government recognises that some refugees and people seeking asylum experience hate crime and will work to ensure they are protected from such behaviours and help them to feel safer and less isolated within their communities.

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014[55] placed in statute key elements of Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC).[56] GIRFEC is Scotland’s national approach to improving the wellbeing of children and supports children, young people and their parents to work in partnership with the services that can help them. This includes refugee and asylum seeking children and their families and ensures that they are able to access the services they require to settle in Scotland. The 2014 Act also provides access to services for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) as care leavers. Local authorities provide accommodation and support through and beyond their asylum application, including access to education, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and other services, which support integration into their local communities.

The Children (Scotland) Act 1995[57] requires local authorities and other public bodies to become corporate parents for unaccompanied children and young people, with statutory duties to safeguard them and support them towards positive destinations and independence under Section 25 of the 1995 Act. This includes UASC, who are cared for by the local authority in which they are found.

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015[58] places a duty on Scottish Ministers to make arrangements for an Independent Child Trafficking Guardian (ICTG) to be appointed for unaccompanied asylum-seeking and trafficked children in Scotland. The ICTG service ‘Guardianship Scotland’ was introduced in April 2023 and is funded by the Scottish Government. Its main aim is to provide advice and support to the unaccompanied child and the local authority, as the child navigates the asylum and trafficking processes.

Unaccompanied asylum seeking children are treated as ‘looked after’ children. Their rights must be upheld and they must have access to all that would be expected for any other child or young person, including health care and education. The Promise[59] sets out the ambition for Scotland’s care experienced children and young people, including UASC.

The Verity House Agreement (2023)[60] commits Scottish local authorities and the Scottish Government to ‘consult and collaborate as early as possible in all policy areas’ and, in particular, to adopt a joint approach of ‘local by default, national by agreement’. For the New Scots Strategy, this will mean recognising the lead role local authorities take in developing programmes to support multi-way integration that suit the needs of specific localities and communities, while seeking to create the strongest possible alliance at the national level that protects that capacity.

Community Learning and Development (CLD) is a professional practice within education with delivery stretching across all stages of lifelong learning. The purpose of CLD is to provide early intervention and prevention to those experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, inequality of opportunity within the education and skills system. CLD is very broad, encompassing a wide range of activities, which can include adult learning, youth work, and ESOL. Councils have a statutory responsibility to make CLD available locally, playing an important role in the system. However there is a wide range of partners involved in the delivery of CLD activity.

The Community Learning and Development independent review[61] was commissioned by the Minister for Higher and Further Education; and Veterans and started in December 2023. Led by an Independent Reviewer, the review will offer independent advice and recommendations on the delivery of CLD services in the context of a reformed education and skills system. A final report outlining findings and recommendations is expected to be published in June 2024.

The Scottish Government has committed to introducing a new Human Rights Bill[62] within the 2023-24 parliamentary year. The Bill will incorporate international human rights standards into domestic law within the limits of devolved competence. It will bring an enhanced focus to the implementation of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights by creating duties on those delivering public functions to give effect to and realise these rights for the people of Scotland. Specific rights for women, disabled people and people experiencing racism will also feature in the Bill.

Scotland’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy[63] was published jointly by Scottish Government and COSLA in June 2023 and lays out a long-term vision and approach to improving the mental health and wellbeing of everyone in Scotland. The associated Delivery Plan64 was published in November 2023 and sets out the actions that will be taken to improve mental health for everyone in Scotland covering the period 2023 to 2025. Many refugees and people seeking asylum arrive in Scotland with mental health problems associated with the reason they have had to seek asylum. This includes gender-based violence, sexual violence, torture, experience of war and other degrading treatment. The experience of seeking asylum, incidents of racism or prejudice and the challenge of understanding and exercising rights can exacerbate these existing problems or create new ones.



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