New Scots refugee integration strategy 2018 to 2022: engagement analysis

Analysis of engagement which informed the development of Scotland’s second New Scots refugee integration strategy.

Chapter 3 Needs of asylum seekers

This chapter covers the views in different responses about issues that are affecting asylum seekers only. However, it should be noted that the other chapters also contain issues that are of relevance to asylum seekers. Asylum is reserved to the UK Government, this includes asylum application decisions and the provision of asylum accommodation and asylum support. However, many of the essential services which support asylum seekers living in Scotland are devolved.

Most responses provided comments in relation to the needs of asylum seekers. The following points were raised:

  • The asylum process
  • The dispersal process
  • Asylum seekers restricted from working
  • Support and information about asylum seekers' rights and entitlements
  • Financial support for asylum seekers
  • Refused asylum seekers
  • Preference for cash over cards or vouchers.

Each of these points is covered in more detail below.

3.1 The asylum process

Many responses made comments regarding the asylum claim process:

  • Responses highlighted that it currently takes too long for asylum claims to be processed, and that decisions regarding asylum claims should be made faster. The difficulty of waiting for a decision during a pending asylum claim was emphasised, making it impossible for asylum seekers to plan for the future.
  • Asylum seekers' fear of being detained was raised. It was suggested that there should be no more detention by 2020 and that community-based alternatives to detention centres should be established across Scotland.
  • It was suggested that asylum seekers should be able to submit their asylum claims at regional offices in Scotland instead of Croydon or Liverpool.
  • The 28-day "move-on" period during which newly recognised refugees still receive asylum support, as they transition to mainstream benefits or secure work, was regarded as too short as it potentially led refugees into destitution. Responses suggested that this period should be extended.

3.2 Asylum seekers restricted from working

Many responses raised issues about asylum seekers restriction from working, and emphasised that asylum seekers should have the right to work.

  • They highlighted that asylum seekers want to contribute to society and the Scottish economy. Considering the high skill set of many asylum seekers, it was suggested that the current restrictions to work reduce the potential benefits to the Scottish economy.
  • The importance of work for asylum seekers' self-worth and self-confidence was highlighted. More generally, being able to work was seen as enabling integration.

3.3 The dispersal process

Many responses commented on the dispersal process through which asylum seekers are distributed throughout the UK. Currently, Glasgow is the only asylum dispersal area in Scotland.

  • More generally, the need for "building community cohesion in dispersal areas" was emphasised. There was a perception that dispersal areas were often in deprived neighbourhoods. More generally, it was felt that asylum seekers were subject to racism in some of the dispersal areas. Responses highlighted the need to engage with communities before, during and after asylum seekers are dispersed to these areas.
  • It was also suggested that the dispersal should be more widespread.
  • Responses highlighted the need for asylum seekers to be required to move less often. Staying in one area for longer would allow asylum seekers to get to know the area better, build lasting connections and, as such, enhance their integration process.
  • These points were also raised by three responses from engagement events outside Glasgow.

3.4 Support and information about asylum seekers' rights and entitlements

Some responses included the need for asylum seekers to be better informed about their rights and entitlements. This includes more accessible information:

  • About the asylum process, and who does what during the process.
  • The kind of services – ranging from health, education to employability services – that asylum seekers can access.

3.5 Financial support for asylum seekers

Some responses raised issues in relation to the financial support provided to asylum seekers. It was suggested that the £37.75 weekly allowance provided by the National Asylum Suport Service ( NASS) is not enough to meet a person's basic needs such as transport, food and clothing.

3.6 Refused asylum seekers

A few responses raised points in relation to refused asylum seekers, including:

  • The need to acknowledge refused asylum seekers in New Scots 2.
  • The danger of becoming destitute because of losing the financial and accommodation support provided by the Home Office.

3.7 Preference for cash over cards or vouchers

A few responses highlighted a preference for asylum seekers to receive their benefits as cash as opposed to a card (the ASPEN card):

  • Experiences were recalled where asylum seekers felt embarrassed about paying with their ASPEN card in a shop, since this revealed that they were asylum seekers and this could lead to stigmatisation.
  • Furthermore, it was felt that Section 4 claimants (refused, destitute asylum seekers that applied for temporary support under the Section 4 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1999) should equally be able to withdraw cash with their ASPEN card. Not being able to withdraw cash was regarded as significantly limiting their ability to integrate as, for example, they would be unable to buy bus tickets. One participant put it the following way: "People need cash to self-manage, not cards that limit what they can buy."
  • One response noted that giving vouchers to refugees and asylum seekers is inappropriate as it limits what can be bought and they can expire.


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