REFUGEES have called on MSPs to send “a message of welcome” by approving plans to give them the vote when the issue is discussed this week.

The proposed change, which could see refugees allowed to vote in both national and local Scottish elections, is part of the Scottish Elections Bill, which will be debated this Thursday.

A previous amendment, which would have allowed asylum seekers – who have not yet been granted refugee status – was rejected last month. The extension of the franchise would not include general elections, which are controlled by Westminster.

Now campaigners have written to all MSPs urging them to continue to back plans to extend the voting franchise to refugees following the stage three debate of the bill.

Munther Nouraldeen, a refugee from Syria, who has been living in Scotland for five years, said he had been disappointed when, despite receiving letters from his local council urging him to register to vote, he discovered he was unable to do so.

“We are hoping that refugees will be allowed to vote after this debate because at the end of the day we are human beings, and this is a human right,” he said. “In our countries elections are not always genuine so we would be very proud to vote here in Scotland.

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“I want to vote for those who represent me. There are calls for better integration but not having the vote makes you feel excluded from society.”

Raeef, who is also Syrian but did not want to use his second name, said he felt hopeful that it would be passed. “I would like to thank the Scottish Government for everything,” he said. “For healthcare, and housing and all the other services. If they also allow us to vote it will feel like they [politicians] are really treating us as Scottish citizens, who can participate in our communities.”

In a letter to MSPs, Pinar Aksu, development officer for Maryhill Integration Network in Glasgow, who has been campaigning on the issue, wrote: “Refugees living in Scotland are part of our communities. They are our neighbours, our friends, parents you may meet outside the school gates. They might also be fellow activists, party members and future politicians. They experience the outcomes of policies developed and made in Holyrood and local government.”

She told the Sunday National: “This would allow refugees to take part in Scottish politics in their communities and to raise their voices. If this is approved it sends out a strong message to the rest of the world of how you can welcome refugees – by treating them as citizens of the country where they live.”

Lorna Gledhill, policy officer at Scottish Refugee Council, said: “This legislation is set to address a longstanding democratic deficit where thousands of people who have made Scotland their home – including refugees – have been unable to formally participate in Scottish democracy.

“By granting voting rights to all those who are lawfully resident in Scotland, MSPs are helping to create a more welcoming, inclusive Scotland, where everyone is treated equally no matter where they are from.”