A SCOTTISH MP is calling for the UK Home Office to scrap brutal legislation that sees refused refugees denied support or accommodation, amid health fears due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Stuart McDonald MP, SNP spokesman on immigration, claimed that to continue to make those whose asylum claims were refused destitute – by evicting them and stopping support within 21 days – in the face of a global health crisis was immoral.

Those who are refused asylum by the Home Office are expected to leave the UK with immediate effect. However, many claim it is not safe for them to do so, and maintain their lives remain at risk in their home countries.

The Home Office insists it provides emergency support for those unable to leave due to practical or legal constraints.

Research from charities suggests about 1000 refugees are – or are at risk of – destitution in Scotland. Refused refugees are not allowed to work and cannot claim mainstream benefits. About 100 are still facing eviction by housing provider Serco.

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Glasgow has a destitution night shelter, which currently hosts men only, while Positive Action on Housing runs a Rooms for Refugees hosting scheme.

However, charities have raised concerns that people can end up sleeping rough and are vulnerable to exploitation, survival sex and trafficking.

Health fears have now been raised about their increased vulnerability in the current outbreak. There are worries too for those with symptoms of Covid-19 but are unable to self-isolate due to the Home Office policies that deny them accommodation. Under Scottish Government rules they are able to access health care.

McDonald said: “Every part of Government must be relentlessly focussed on responding to coronavirus – including the Home Office. No Recourse to Public Funds provisions – inhumane at the best of times – are totally inappropriate and counterproductive in current circumstances and should be scrapped.

“We need to make sure that everyone who is at risk gets the support and help they need – and that those who need to are able to properly self-isolate. That is just as true of people who are subject to ‘no recourse’ rules as anybody else.

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“But those very rules will make it really difficult for that to happen. Scrapping the ‘no recourse’ rules is the right thing to do morally and from a public health perspective”.

Annika Joy, director of the Glasgow Night Shelter for destitute asylum seekers, said the organisation was working out how best to operate in the midst of the crisis and on ensuring the vulnerable people it worked with had their access to appropriate healthcare.

She added: “We need to apply a public health approach to all our services. That is the best way to ensure safety, health and mitigate risk.

“It is imperative the most marginalised groups, including people who have No Recourse to Public Funds and are stuck in night shelters or the streets can access health and suitable accommodation if they need to self-isolate.”

The Home Office did not respond to questions about the proposal to axe the policy in the midst of the pandemic. But in a statement a spokesman said:“The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who genuinely need our protection.

“Even if an asylum claim is failed we will provide accommodation for those who would otherwise be destitute and who are temporarily unable to leave the UK because of a practical or legal obstacle.”