Chapter 11 Other issues
In addition to comments which directly related to the New Scots themes ( Chapter 3- 9) or the Scottish Government's commitments to develop an anti-destitution strategy ( Chapter 10), responses raised a number of other issues in their responses to the three questions. These issues included:
- Family reunion
- Travel documents
- Devolving powers
- Perceptions of the Home Office
- Racism and discrimination experienced by refugees and asylum seekers
- Two-tier system
- Safe returns review
- Service development for refugees and asylum seekers
- Issues affecting particular population groups
- Comments about the engagement process and New Scots 2.
Each of these points is explored in more detail below.
11.1 Family reunion
Family reunion is a matter reserved to the UK Government. However, many responses raised how important family reunion is for refugees and asylum seekers. Their comments covered the following points:
- The point was raised that refugees and asylum seekers would like to be better informed about how to apply for family reunion.
- Responses suggested that the family reunion process should be made faster.
11.2 Travel documents
Issue of travel documents is a matter reserved to the UK Government. However, some responses noted that refugees and asylum seekers would like to be able to have permission to travel ( i.e. have a valid travel document) so that they could visit family members outside of the UK. It was stressed that they would like to have more information on how to obtain such a travel document.
11.3 Devolving powers
A few responses highlighted that they would like immigration and asylum legislation to be devolved to the Scottish Government, and that the Scottish Government should use its devolved powers to better help refugees and asylum seekers.
11.4 Perceptions of the Home Office
Some responses included comments about the negative perception of the Home Office, including the perceptions that the Home Office has created a "hostile environment" towards refugees and aslyum seekers and that there is a "lack of consistency and transparency" in how the Home Office makes decisions on asylum claims.
11.5 Racism and discrimination experienced by refugees and asylum seekers
Many responses drew attention to the level of racism and descrimination that refugees and asylum seekers experience. Examples were given of refugees and asylum seekers having experienced racism and discrimination in workplaces, other institutions, their local communities and schools.
- In relation to this, responses highlighted the importance of the need to raise awareness among Scotland's public about refugees and asylum seekers (see Chapter 9.1).
- Considering the verbal and/or physical abuse that some refugees and asylum seekers have experienced, responses emphasised the importance of Police Scotland actively engaging and building trust with refugees and asylum seekers.
The majority of responses made comments about transport.
- Considering that refugees and asylum seekers are often accommodated further away from the city centre and local amenities and are therefore relying on public transport, it was suggested that they should receive discounted or free travel passes. This was seen to be particularly important for asylum seekers since their weekly allowance of £37.75 is not sufficient for spending money on transport, and for refused asylum seekers who do not have access to cash that is needed to pay for transport (see Chapter 3).
- It was emphasised that refugees and asylum seekers would like to have the opportunity to learn to drive as this would give them more independence. It was suggested that they should be able to complete driving lessons and tests in their first language. Driver licensing, including testing, is a reserved matter, handled by the DVLA.
11.7 Two-tier system
Asylum and resettlement are matters reserved to the UK Government. However, some responses made comments about what they call the "two-tier-system", that is, the perceived difference in service provision for those refugees who have come to Scotland through the Syrian Resettlement Programme and those who have come to the UK via a different route and undergo the asylum system. It was highlighted that there should be equity of support.
11.8 Safe returns review
Safe returns are part of the asylum system, which is a matter reserved to the UK Government. A few responses emphasised the lack of long-term security that refugees have due to the "safe returns review", i.e. the review five years after their refugee status is granted to assess whether they are able to stay in the UK or need to return to their home country.
11.9 Service development for refugees and asylum seekers
The majority of responses made comments in relation to service development for refugees and asylum seekers, including:
- The development of independent advocacy services that refugees and asylum seekers could turn to if they face a legal issue.
- It was emphasised that refugees and asylum seekers are not a homogenous group, i.e. that they come from different cultures, speak different languages, have left their countries for different reasons, and have different needs. This was seen as important to consider when designing services for refugees and asylum seekers.
- Responses suggested that staff across a variety of services and institutions – ranging from NHS services, housing services, counsellors, social workers, Home Office staff, Jobcentre staff, ESOL teachers, through to police, teachers and judges – should be better trained in how to engage with refugees and asylum seekers in a culturally-sensitive way. In addition, it was felt that they should be better trained to understand refugees' and asylum seekers' needs, and be aware of their rights and entitlements.
- Responses suggested that refugees and asylum seekers should themselves be more involved in developing services that target them by drawing on their lived experience. Another suggestion was for services to be co-designed between refugees and asylum seekers on the one hand, and the host communities on the other. More generally, it was felt that refugees and asylum seekers should be given more opportunities to voice their concerns with policy makers and statutory services.
- Responses emphasised that the work of different organisations and their services should be better integrated. This included:
- Stronger partnerships and coordination between statutory and third sector services (including community and volunteering organisations) and services working in different areas ( e.g. housing or health). One response suggested the creation of a national database for all organisations working with refugees and asylum seekers that could enhance coordination between different services. Similarly, one response suggested the development of a service directory that would help different organisations to be more aware of other services and improve signposting between different organisations
- More generally, the important role of third sector organisations was highlighted, and it was suggested that the third sector should be more involved in the planning of services.
- The development of forums where learning and best practice can be shared between different organisations was recommended.
- In addition, responses suggested that the New Scots Strategy should be linked with other networks such as the Glasgow Integration Network or the Scottish Asylum Stakeholders Forum.
- Considering that under the Syrian Resettlement Programme, refugees have been accommodated outside Glasgow and that there are proposals to expand asylum dispersal beyond Glasgow, responses highlighted the need to fund and develop services outside Glasgow. This was seen to be important since specialist services – ranging from services for those who have experienced torture and sexual violence to immigration lawyers – are primarily located in Glasgow.
- In answer to Question 3 of the engagement ("What can you, your community or your organisation do to contribute to that change?"), the majority of responses highlighted service development as a means by which they can contribute to that change, including:
- Organisations to share their knowledge and better integrate with other services as outlined above.
- Raising awareness among and lobby members of parliament and local councillors about issues affecting refugees and asylum seekers.
- Refugees and asylum seekers to build up peer support and community networks, particularly supporting new arrivals and to facilitate emotional support and employability support by those who have moved on to college or work.
- Organisations to develop resources, guidance material and standards/code of practice across a variety of sectors that engage with refugees and asylum seekers. In addition, it was highlighted that research organisations can provide evidenced-based information to inform policy.
11.10 Issues affecting particular population groups
Responses highlighted the fact that particular population groups face particular issues:
- Many responses suggested that female refugees and asylum seekers face particular issues, including:
- The need for pregnant women and single mothers to be housed appropriately ( i.e. not in shared accommodation)
- The lack of affordable childcare: this was seen as a barrier for mothers accessing college and particularly ESOL courses, and as problematic when needing to go to appointments with the Home Office. This was a point raised by three women-only groups and one group consisting of 13 women and one man across different engagement events.
- Women's safety, including domestic violence and harassment experienced by women
- Social isolation among women because they are more likely to stay at home
- Accessing female GPs
- Gender discrimination in the labour market.
- One response thought that integration is more challenging for refugees and asylum seekers who are older as they may not be able to work, or may struggle more to learn English.
- Many responses highlighted the need for services to be developed for young refugees and asylum seekers. The particular issues faced by this group include:
- Bullying in school
- The disruption of their education through re-settling in Scotland, and potentially having to move multiple times as an asylum seeker
- Disputes about their age during the asylum claims
- The trauma of being separated from their families and the challenges of needing to live independently, particularly for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
- Some responses highlighted that disabled refugees and asylum seekers will need to be provided with appropriate housing and transport. In addition, it was highlighted that different cultural attitudes towards disabilities need to be taken into account when providing services for refugees and asylum seekers with special needs. In addition to this, many responses raised points about the trauma and mental health needs that many refugees and asylum seekers experience (see Chapter 8.2).
- One response highlighted that LGBTI asylum seekers face particular challenges during the asylum process (if their asylum claim is based on being persecuted for being LGBTI) since they are put under pressure to "prove" they are LGBTI, for example, by providing evidence that they are in a same-sex relationship. The response highlighted that there should be a "clear and transparent system for assessing the validity of claims that doesn't rely on prejudiced stereotypes". It was also suggested that caseworkers, lawyers and other frontline staff should receive "specific LGBTI asylum guidance and training that includes a strong focus on cultural awareness".
- A few suggested that refugees of the Syrian Resettlement Programme who have been accommodated in rural areas may struggle particularly to access culturally-appropriate resources ( e.g. halal food), places of worship or specialist services that are centred around Glasgow (see 11.9), potentially leading to loneliness.
11.11 Comments about the engagement process and New Scots 2
Some responses commented on the New Scots engagement process and the New Scots 2 Strategy:
- It was felt that Question 2 of the engagement ( i.e. "What changes do you want to see by 2020 and why?") was difficult to answer for asylum seekers themselves considering their insecure immigration status and uncertainty about the future.
- Similarly, it was stressed that Question 3 of the engagement ("What can you, your community or your organisation do to contribute to that change?") was difficult to answer for refugees and asylum seekers considering their lack of agency in bringing about change. In fact, in answer to Question 3, some responses suggested that refugees and asylum seekers do not feel they have the agency or power to contribute to any large-scale change.
- Other responses mentioned that those participating in the engagements welcomed the opportunity to be informed and to contribute to the discussion of the New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy.
- One response raised the concern that the separation of the New Scots theme "Needs of Asylum Seekers" from the other New Scots themes may reinforce the two-tier nature of the provision for refugees and asylum seekers (see 11.7).
There is a problem
Thanks for your feedback