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13 August 2020
Nicola Sturgeon writes to Priti Patel urging UK Government to be 'humane' and help relocate asylum seekers

Nicola Sturgeon writes to Priti Patel urging UK Government to be 'humane' and help relocate asylum seekers

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel urging the UK to “lead by example” and “take a humane and welcoming approach” to accepting more refugees.

Sturgeon highlighted the situation in camps on the Greek Aegean Islands, which she said had become “worse than ever” with human rights being “denied”.

She said the UK Government must “play its part in taking refugees and giving them a safe and if required permanent home”.

Sturgeon’s letter comes as the Home Office faces criticism on its approach to asylum seekers.

The UK Government is reportedly considering using the Royal Navy to “push back” asylum seekers who try to enter the UK via the English Channel in a bid to make the route “unviable”.

The plan attracted criticism from opposition parties and human rights organisations and was called “an appalling display of heavy-handedness” by the SNP.

Focussing in particular on the issue of overcrowding in refugee camps on the Aegean Islands, Sturgeon said conditions there had become “appallingly overcrowded and unsanitary”.

She said: “While the focus of the UK news media has shifted since 2015, the situation in these camps is worse than ever with human rights such as access to shelter, clean drinking water and education being denied.

“It is vital to lead by example and the UK must play its part in taking in refugees and giving them a safe and if required, permanent home.

“As you know, in Scotland and particularly in Glasgow, we have warmly welcomed refugees from Syria and other parts of the world fleeing persecution.

“We stand ready to play our part again and urge you to take a humane and welcoming approach to the resettlement of these refugees on the Aegean Islands.”

The letter follows a letter writing campaign by grassroots movement Europe Must Act (EMA), which is calling for the relocation of asylum seekers from the Greek island camps and a “humane migration policy in Europe and the UK”.

The campaign group launched in March with an open letter signed by over 160 charities and organisations that work with refugees in the region. EMA has chapters in cities and regions across Scotland, the UK and EU member states.

Seven EMA groups across Scotland have lobbied councillors and MSPs to accept asylum seekers from these camps.

Thirty three MSPs from four political parties have signed a Scottish Parliament motion in support of the campaign put forward by Scottish Greens MSP John Finnie.

The motion calls for the UK Government to “assist in the urgent resettlement of refugees held on the islands [and] asks that the UK Government also allows Scottish local authorities to take people held in these camps”.

Rebecca Morton, a spokesperson for EMA, said: "We are delighted that the First Minister has responded to our calls for Scottish leaders to intervene in this matter.

“We believe the UK is duty bound to assist in the evacuation of the camps it helped to construct through its membership of the EU and to reverse the hostile migration policy it continues to support by funding an aggressive, militarised border regime in the Aegean Sea.

“We will now be urging MPs to put pressure on the UK Government to play its part in putting an end to the humanitarian crisis at Europe’s borders."

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