Petition to be presented to Mark Harper by Scottish Refugee Council
Pressure is set to intensify on Immigration minister Mark Harper to make his first trip north of the border as a six-month campaign on destitution in the asylum process reaches its conclusion.
The Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) will present a petition, which has around 3,000 signatures from members of the public and civil society organisations, to the minister later this week.
It comes amid claims the UK Government is pursuing a policy of “starving people out of the country” with asylum seekers who have seen claims refused unable to work or receive benefits.
Launched by SRC last October, the petition forms part of their Stop Destitution campaign, which urges allowing asylum seekers who remain in the UK for more than six months, including those who have been refused, the right to work. Improving decision-making on asylum claims and sufficient support until people are granted protection or can return home safely also feature among demands.
The Archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia, as well as the Lord Provost of Edinburgh are among those who have voiced support for the campaign, while almost three dozen MSPs signed a motion earlier this year urging the UK Government to legislate on the matter.
SRC will now seek a meeting with Harper here in Scotland, over seven months on from the Forest of Dean MP taking up his seat in cabinet. Head of Policy, Gary Christie, told Holyrood the Glasgow-based charity hoped mounting pressure in Scotland will “force him into a room with us”.
“This is one of these intractable issues that has been around for quite a long time and it’s still going to be around. We don’t anticipate that he is going to just bow to pressure and introduce our solutions, which are allowing asylum seekers the right to work, providing end-to-end support, and improving decision-making – these are things that he’s not just going to turn round and say, yes, I am going to do that.
“It’s really just trying to build as much political momentum as possible. And similar, I think as I said to the Ending Child Detention campaign, was that it was a lot of pressure in Scotland that ultimately led to the new Coalition Government saying that they would end child detention, so it’s something similar we’re trying to do with this campaign.”
The campaign’s conclusion coincides with a Home Affairs Committee inquiry into the asylum process taking oral evidence for the first time last week.