CROSS-PARTY MSPs have called on the Scottish Government to extend free bus travel to all asylum seekers in the upcoming Budget to allow them to better integrate into communities.

Bus travel is already free in Scotland to asylum seekers who are under 22 but on the back of trials supported by the Government in places such as Glasgow, there are growing calls to ensure this is rolled out to all those seeking asylum in Scotland.

Asylum seekers are not allowed to work in the UK and are only given an allowance of £6 a day and for those in hotels, it can be as little as £1.36 per day, making it practically impossible for most to afford bus travel.

A debate led by Labour MSP Paul Sweeney saw politicians from across the chamber on Thursday call on ministers to get the policy over the line despite budgetary pressures the Scottish Government is facing.

It comes after a report from the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee this week recommended expanding the concessionary scheme to all asylum seekers after members heard directly from displaced people on how it had made a difference to their daily lives.

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Sweeney (below) told the chamber: “Having to fork out £5 for bus travel [for a day ticket in Glasgow] to attend medical appointments or legal appointments is simply not an option unless they [asylum seekers] go without food or essentials.

“Concessionary bus travel is a key social justice policy that has the ability to positively transform the lives of those stuck in the asylum system.

“The difficulties faced by people seeking asylum in Scotland lie firmly at the door of the Conservative UK Government. However, the Scottish Government has the ability to improve the lives of asylum seekers in many practical ways.

“Free bus travel would enable people seeking asylum to explore and integrate in their new home country and vastly improve their quality of life.”

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Transport minister Fiona Hyslop insisted it would not be possible for the Scottish Government to fund an expansion this financial year, with an extension expected to cost between £1.3 million and £3.2m.

However, she did say the Scottish Government remains determined to “explore every avenue to provide the support people seeking asylum in Scotland so obviously need”, adding she and her team were considering evidence from trials which would inform how best to implement any expansion of free bus travel.

She stressed the Government must avoid “any unintended consequences”.

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Kaukab Stewart, convener of the equalities committee, read out words in the chamber directly from asylum seekers from the Maryhill Integration Network on how much free bus travel would mean to them.

They had said: “Free bus travel will provide us with the ability to travel to appointments crucial to our asylum claims.

“Hotels feel like open prisons and although we can leave, we have no funds to do so. Being confined into one space has led to a decline in our mental health as we are left alone with nothing to do.

“The free bus travel will allow us to integrate into the community, attend classes and places of worship, so we can become familiar with our new surroundings.

“We want to contribute to society by volunteering, we want to gain new skills and we want to have the choice to travel.”

Stewart added: “I hope this lends further weight to calls on what would make a huge difference to asylum seekers.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf said last month the Scottish Government is giving “active consideration” to the issue.

Scottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell added: “The route to implementation may be challenging but we have to get this over the line.”

Hyslop concluded: “I have discussed this issue with [the equalities minister] Emma Roddick and we agreed that despite not having all the levers we would wish to be available and despite the complexities I have touched on, we are determined to explore every avenue to provide the support people seeking asylum in Scotland people so obviously need.

“I must stress we must consider unintended consequences.”