Half of migrants feel unrepresented, survey finds
More than half (53 per cent) of migrants living in Scotland who took part in a recent poll said they did not feel represented by Scottish politics.
Respondents to the survey conducted by JustRight Scotland, a human rights charity, cited a lack of migrants and people of colour in the Scottish Parliament as a key reason.
Others said it was because migrants were not involved in discussions or asked about issues affecting them enough.
One respondent said: “People who have been through the process of migrating to/seeking asylum in the UK are not in Scottish Government [and] Parliament. Also, I am not aware of a forum/mechanism [where] people who are migrants/refugees can directly engage [and] speak with Scottish political institutions to inform and influence their decisions.”
Another said: “As a black women and immigrant, I don’t feel my experiences from another country are valued and welcomed by local employers, so workplace discrimination is not fully addressed.”
The Just Citizens project is now calling for parliamentary updates and consultations to be distributed in a range of languages, a migrants' panel to be established and greater involvement in citizens’ assemblies to encourage engagement.
Mira Waligora, one of the researchers for the project, said: “We believe everyone should have the right to participate in the political processes and systems in Scotland. It makes for a more functional society – involved and engaged communities are thriving ones.
“The more migrants living here understand and know how to navigate the political system, the more they can play an active part in enacting change. This will help better reflect Scottish society.”
The group has also urged political parties to ensure adequate anti-racism and representation policies are in place.
There has never been a black MSP and no woman of colour has ever been elected to Holyrood. Just four men from ethnic minority backgrounds have been elected since 1999.
Talat Yaqoob, policy lead for Just Citizens, said: “Migrants in Scotland are more likely to be living in poverty and discriminated against so they are the sharpest end of policy making.
“But at the same time, they are much less likely to be participating in any part of the political or democratic system. We need migrants’ lived experience and voices to help deliver a fairer Scotland for all.”
The survey further revealed that while the majority of respondents had voted in Scotland previously, one in four had never done so and one in five were not aware they had the right to vote.
Legislation passed last year extended the voting franchise to all foreign nationals with leave to remain in the UK, including refugees, for Scottish Parliament and local government elections.
A respondent said: “It's confusing. I know I'm allowed to vote in some elections but in others I'm not, still struggle to remember which ones.”
May’s election is the first time many will be able to vote in Scotland. Just Citizens is called for a social media campaign to promote the new right in the run-up to the Holyrood election.
A total of 57 people responded to the survey.