The National:

THE UK’s New Plan for Immigration, also known as the Borders Bill, seeks to "reform" the broken UK asylum system. It appears at present to consist of the Home Secretary paying lawyers vast amounts of tax-payers money to advise on how to overturn international and maritime law. It’s so shocking it is actually difficult to take it in but it is effectively offshoring the death penalty for exercising your right to seek asylum. I predict with 100% certainty that people will drown as a direct result of the implementation this policy. Alternatively, the UK could work with Europe.

The Borders Bill, which is entering committee stage and goes for its third reading in the autumn, seeks to make claiming asylum by boat illegal. It is a matter of ideological and political cruelty the likes of which have been seen before in history, when, for instance, Jewish, Roma and homosexuals fleeing Nazi Germany asked "where shall we go when no one will take us?". International treaties and the Refugee Convention were designed to offer redress and remedy after consensus said: never again. 

READ MORE: SNP conference live: All the news and updates from Sunday

That the UK Home Office would be engaged in breaching treaty obligations in order to administer untold suffering and potentially decades of misery and separation from families is a breath-taking discovery for those who are new to the workings of the asylum system. But this is the point. The idea of deterrent, like the stationing of weapons of mass destruction at Faslane, underpins the evermore nuanced levels of psychological torment and physical harm those seeking asylum in the UK must endure.

All research I have read is unequivocal: deterrent never works. Love of family; need for safety will override all cruelty, often tragically. Despite this the Home Office claims it has no evidence as to why anyone would want to seek asylum here. (I can readily supply a long bibliography as can my colleagues).

The National:

The Royal Society of Edinburgh’s immigration experts responded to the consultation on the New Plan for Immigration, issuing an Advice Paper. With the support of highly experience staff, each member took different aspects of the consultation in turn and offered expert evidence-based perspectives. The group included refugees. We were clear that some areas of the bill, especially around nationality law reform, were to be welcomed. However, the concern amongst senior academics and refugee experts was that the bill was unjust, setting up many future legal challenges; that it risked taking the UK out of the Refugee Convention; that it would undermine the work of the New Scots Integration Policy which has a primary principle the integration of those seeking asylum from day one, and which is internationally acclaimed. 

So what can be done in Scotland? 

Legislate to strengthen the existing  human rights-based New Scots Refugee Integration Policy. 

Ensure all service delivery and activities have asylum and refugee rights embedded into their architecture. How would this look to someone who is newly arrived? To someone learning English when their lives have collapsed? Do this for health, education, culture, employment, sport, housing, and where possible welfare. Support refugees’ own agency at every level.

Don’t ghetto-ise refugee provision. Yes, excellent specialist support is available form Scottish Refugee Council but also from many organisations in Scotland who serve refugee communities day in day out. Make sure that this is a whole society responsibility for hospitality and neighbourliness. Yours and mine.

Make sure services and provisions across the board are trauma-informed. Across the sectors just now there is real burn-out, not least in the wake of campaigning against appalling asylum accommodation provisions, dawn raids and Kenmure Street, the resettlements from Afghanistan. Day in day out organisations are engaged in the mass distribution of necessities and legal advice to whole communities made destitute by Home Office policies. Many are run by refugee communities themselves, the first ports of call for help. 

READ MORE: How The National is covering conference weekend ... and how to subscribe

Go carefully. Not everyone can and should be involved in direct delivery and it can be overwhelming to be on the receiving end of such much help and to feel obliged to muster gratitude, when all you are doing is exercising your human rights. But absolutely everyone can be part of making a difference – fundraising, educating, campaigning, learning more about places people are from, learning languages, supporting events, writing letters fae the locals. Not least, writing to MPs and MSPs to appeal for the dignified and humane treatment of our sisters and brothers who have come, have asked us to help, with a safe home, and a new start.

Alison Phipps is Professor and UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts and as Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh convened the expert group responding to the UK’s New Plan for Immigration and Asylum: