THE UK Government’s approach to asylum is benefitting the “far-right and private companies” rather than the public or those seeking sanctuary in the UK, a leading campaigner has warned.

Sabir Zazai, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council - who came to the UK after fleeing war in Afghanistan - said the Rwanda plan and use of the Bibby Stockholm barge aimed at deterring asylum seekers was also making people who had made the UK their home for years feel “very unwelcome”.

He said Scotland had a long tradition of welcoming people seeking safety and could lead the way in influencing the UK Government to think differently.

On Tuesday, Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda bill – drawn up after the Supreme Court ruled the plan was unlawful - passed its first vote in the Commons.

READ MORE: Rwanda could walk away with millions without accepting any asylum seekers

Zazai (below) said the current UK Government’s approach to asylum – including the mantra of Stop the Boats – was having an impact as “political rhetoric matters”.

“The Rwanda plan and the barges and the UK Government’s overall response to asylum might be aimed at new people coming in, but it makes the rest of us feel very, very unwelcome,” he said.

“People like me who arrived 20 odd years ago, people who arrived several years ago – it just creates divisions across our communities, it is that “othering” of people.”

He added: “Britain’s refugee system has become ever more uncaring, chaotic and costly.

“The millions of pounds now spent on Rwanda, on barges, on institutional form of accommodation, detention, and the toughening of our response to people simply looking for safety.

"Imagine spending a fraction on that in fixing our asylum system, but also in the communities that welcome people, in our housing, in our health system.

The National: Rishi Sunak's revived Rwanda plan has passed the first hurdle in the Commons

“Who benefits from all of this is the far-right and private companies - it is not the public, it is not people seeking protection here.”

Zazai, who arrived as an asylum seeker in the UK in 1999, said he understood what it takes to “flee terror and war and make a perilous dangerous journey to safety”.

He said at the time he arrived coincided with the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act of Tony Blair’s government, which introduced the policy to disperse asylum seekers to different parts of the country. 

“I have had my own experience of detention, destitution, and homelessness and poverty that the UK asylum system is built upon,” he said.

“Given that experience, but also the experience of working with others, sadly governments of all colours, shapes and forms have had their attempt at making the UK’s asylum system as hostile as possible.

“Offering people sanctuary, opening our arms to welcome people and being kind at this really critical time could be important uniting factors – sadly our politicians whether in the past or now in the UK are being tough on a small group of voiceless vulnerable people.”

READ MORE: Brian Cox hits out at 'awful' UK Government Rwanda scheme

Zazai is also spearheading a campaign launched this week calling for political leaders to introduce a “fair new plan” for refugees, which has been backed by celebrities including Scottish actor Brian Cox, influential figures, unions, faith leaders and those with experience of being a refugee.

Polling carried out for the Fair Begins Here campaign found 80% of the British public want an approach to the asylum system that is “well managed, fair and compassionate”.

Zazai said: “The campaign will run up to and beyond the General Election pushing the new government to take a completely different approach to asylum policy and commit to a new and humane plan to support refugees.”

He added that his call to the people of Scotland would be that there are people in our communities who just want “safety, dignity and protection” for Christmas.

“Determining asylum claims is reserved to the UK Government, but in Scotland we are in charge of better things – generosity, kindness and compassion,” he said.

“We have got a real chance to show that we do that better and more creatively and innovatively, so the rest of the UK and the world learn you can still be an open, welcoming country and find solutions for this global issue and benefit from all that refugees bring.”