This report has focused on the achievements and progress made under Scotland’s second New Scots refugee integration strategy during the first year of implementation.
It is important to also recognise that there are challenges to delivering the strategy.
1. Reserved Matters
Under current constitutional arrangements in the UK, asylum and immigration are matters reserved to the UK Government and handled by the Home Office. Other reserved matters include certain welfare benefits (e.g. Universal Credit and Job Seekers’ Allowance), foreign policy and broadcasting.
The New Scots strategy cannot directly resolve issues that are outside the scope of the Scottish Government, Scottish local authorities and other Scottish organisations.
A key principle of the New Scots strategy is that integration starts from day one of arrival. In the current context, the strategy strives to support asylum seekers as far as possible, but there remain key areas of asylum and immigration policy that the strategy is not able to change and can only seek to influence. These include:
- asylum accommodation and support provision;
- asylum application processes, including the requirement to apply in Croydon and to travel to Liverpool to submit further evidence for appeals; asylum decision-making; and the time it takes for applications to be processed;
- the operation of Immigration Bail and associated restrictions, including how often reporting to the Home Office is required; permission to work and study; and any other specific conditions applied;
- immigration detention;
- the design, eligibility criteria and funding of refugee resettlement programmes; and
- rules and decisions on applications for leave to enter the UK (including for family reunion), leave to remain and citizenship.
The effect of these reserved matters on individuals and families, as they navigate the UK asylum system, has a direct impact on all other areas of integration.
New Scots is built on principles of partnership and collaboration through which partners bring their skills, knowledge, experience and resource to enable collective progress to be made.
The Scottish Government has committed over £2.7 million from the equality budget to fund organisations working with refugees and asylum seekers over three years up to 2020. There is also a variety of other funding sources for projects, but this requires awareness of these sources and capacity to successfully apply for them.
The collaborative partnership which exists through New Scots provides a strong base for supporting actions and developing work to support refugees. Two New Scots partners have recently secured funding from the EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. This will bring new resources into the second year of implementation of New Scots, bolstering the actions that can be progressed.
3. Refugee and Community Voices
The New Scots strategy was informed through the engagement of over 2,000 people, including over 700 refugees and asylum seekers. This makes it a strategy with refugee voices built into its structure. However, it is important that refugee and community voices continue to be involved as the strategy is implemented.
There are always challenges in enabling people directly affected by a policy to be involved in a meaningful way in its development and implementation. New Scots recognises challenges including:
- Refugees and community members will often not be able to attend meetings during standard working hours because they have their own work commitments. They also won’t have a salary or resource to specifically support their engagement in the way that someone employed by an organisation which has agreed to be a partner in New Scots would have.
- Asylum seekers, refugees and communities will have other commitments that they have to prioritise. Asylum seekers in particular will need to attend appointments about their application, sometimes at relatively short notice.
- Asylum seekers are living with uncertainty every day, as they await a decision on their claim. This can make it difficult to plan or commit to any long-term activity. They should be supported to be involved if they wish and never feel pressured to do so.
- Refugees and asylum seekers can also find it difficult to engage with policy processes because of language barriers; understanding of processes; and awareness of the opportunity to engage. The location or formality of meetings can also be a daunting or intimidating prospect, which may put people off attending.
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