Scotland politics

Destitution 'built in' to asylum process

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Media captionMSPs are calling for a new strategy to deal with problems of destitution affecting asylum seekers in Scotland

MSPs looking at the problems facing asylum seekers in Scotland have said "destitution" is built into the process.

The equalities and human rights committee said that, too often, vulnerable people fell victim to homelessness, ill health and misery.

The committee called for a range of measures to tackle the problem.

But Conservative members of the committee refused to back the full report saying it was "politicised".

The committee investigated asylum and destitution, where people are left without adequate accommodation or the ability to meet essential living needs.

Committee convener, the SNP's Christina McKelvie, said the evidence they heard pointed to "huge gaps" in the asylum system which suffered from a "serious lack of compassion and humanity".

But Conservative member Annie Wells accused her of using a "politicised and unbalanced tone" on the issue.

Immigration status

The British Red Cross in Scotland told the committee the number of destitute refugees and asylum seekers it had helped in Glasgow had more than doubled from 326 in 2014 to 820 in 2016.

The committee is calling for a Scottish anti-destitution strategy and new Scottish government advocacy service to help people with insecure immigration status in Scotland and for asylum seekers in the country to have the right to do paid community work.

Other recommendations in the report include the Scottish government funding accommodation for a person with insecure immigration status.

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Ms McKelvie said: "Our inquiry exposed a serious lack of compassion and humanity in the current system, which is leading hundreds to destitution. This is simply unacceptable.

"In spite of the best efforts of voluntary organisations and some in local government, there are huge gaps in the system that need to be addressed as a matter of priority."

Ms Wells said she and her Conservative colleague on the committee, Jeremy Balfour, did not back the full report.

She said: "A lot of these recommendations are sensible, for both governments: people fleeing conflict or persecution should be able to make a fresh start in the UK.

"But it's deeply regrettable that Christina McKelvie has chosen to depict this important issue in such a politicised and unbalanced tone. It is for that reason I and my Scottish Conservative colleague dissented from the full report."

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