Savan Qadir, activist, research assistant, and former asylum seeker, writes about how the Home Office needs to change its approach ...

GLASGOW is no longer the only Scottish city taking asylum seekers. Every local authority in the country is now involved in “asylum dispersal”.

In April, the Tories’ “Minister for Safe and Legal Migration”, Kevin Foster, announced that the Home Office would be sending asylum seekers to all Scottish council areas on a mandatory basis.

By spreading the number of people seeking asylum across more areas, the Home Office hoped to “reduce and end” the use of hotels for accommodation.

READ MORE: Why an independent Scotland would make life better for refugees and asylum seekers

Foster (below) said: “All local authority areas in England, Scotland and Wales will be expected to participate in a new system of full dispersal to allow us to move from hotels to less expensive and more suitable dispersed accommodation.”

The National:

Before the announcement, Glasgow was the only asylum dispersal city in Scotland. Now, all Scottish local authorities are asylum dispersal areas.

People who seek asylum are excluded from most mainstream public services including housing and homelessness services, welfare, and social care. Instead, they are entitled to limited support through Asylum Support and Accommodation.

This is a public service that is contracted by the Home Office (valued at approximately £4 billion over 10 years) to for-profit private companies. It is not managed by the Scottish Government or by Scottish local authorities.

This profiteering system is an eye-watering waste of public resources, but it has also proven to be extremely harmful and unsafe for individuals who are subject to the system as well as for our cities and communities.

READ MORE: Inquiry launched into treatment of asylum seekers during the pandemic

One example of the unsafe practice of putting asylum seekers and refugees in hotels is the Park Inn tragedy in Glasgow. This resulted in six people being stabbed, including a police officer, and the attacker was shot dead by the police. The BBC later reported that the person who started the attack had asked for help more than 70 times prior to the incident.

Dylan Fatoohi, the co-founder and director of the refugee and asylum-led organisation Refugees for Justice, said: “We believe that the UK asylum and accommodation system remains broken as evidenced by both parliamentary inquiries and independent research and highlighted by the harrowing and avoidable Park Inn Incident.”

Refugees for Justice has prepared a proposal aiming to deliver better housing and support provision for asylum seekers and refugees living in Scotland. They ask the UK Government to:

  • Deliver a locally managed asylum accommodation and support model, with the involvement of the Scottish government, centrally funded by the UK Government. The group says the system should place people into communities, in residential accommodation, and not in institutional settings cut off from mainstream life.
  • Ensure public safeguarding, service and oversight. Instead of contracting private companies, the Home Office should provide full-cost funding directly to Scottish local authorities, who can then work with charities to support integration from day one, the group says.
  • Build on the experience of the Syrian Vulnerable Resettlement Scheme. Scottish local authorities will provide accommodation and support to asylum seekers in line with Scottish housing and homelessness support provision standards. 
  • Embrace the spirit of the public support for Ukrainian and Afghan refugees that demonstrated empathy to help refugees seeking protection to be able to fully participate and contribute to society and their local communities. 
  • Empower the voluntary sector and community-based groups to support the integration of asylum seekers and ensure their access to community support with the Scottish Government’s New Scots integration fund, administrated by the Scottish Refugee Council.

The proposal has been endorsed by many organisations operating in Scotland and also has cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament.

SNP MSP Kaukab Stewart has mentioned the proposal in the Scottish parliament, saying on World Refugee Day: “I commend to the minister the work done by Refugees for Justice in preparing an asylum dispersal proposal for Scotland.

"I would also commend it to the Home Secretary, but I fear that all compassionate approaches are far from the hostile environment agenda that is clearly being set down there.”