Scottish Government seeking answers over asylum seeker deaths, Nicola Sturgeon says
The Scottish Government has "repeatedly requested" details of Home Office probes into the deaths of asylum seekers in Glasgow, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
At First Minister's Questions, Scottish Greens MSP Maggie Chapman raised the "dreadful acceleration in loss of life in the UK's asylum accommodation system", which includes hotels.
That follows the publication of data obtained by civil liberties campaigners Liberty and the Observer which revealed that "at least 107" people provided with asylum housing died between April 2016 and May this year, including 82 deaths since January 2020. The total is more than officially stated and includes at least 17 who died by suicide or suspected suicide, according to information released under freedom of information. A "safeguarding element" was flagged for 41 individuals who died since the beginning of 2020.
The UK-wide figures coincided with the launch of an independent inquiry by Baroness Helena Kennedy into the treatment of asylum seekers in Glasgow during the pandemic.
The period, which saw around 600 asylum seekers moved from flats to hotel rooms, includes the death of Syrian man Adnan Elbi and the Park Inn attack, in which Sudanese national Badreddin Abadlla Adam was shot dead by police after stabbing and injuring six people at the city centre hotel. It later emerged that he had sought mental health help more than 70 times before the incident and the Home Office has been criticised by local MPs and others over its handling of the situation and broader asylum seeker provision.
The private inquiry has been commissioned by the Refugees For Justice group and, launching the process, Kennedy said that "a full public inquiry would have been the proper thing" to happen, stating: "If the Home Office is not prepared to self-scrutinise publicly, then others will have to do it."
Speaking in Holyrood, Chapman said mental health and the investigation of deaths are devolved matters, asking: "Will the First Minister support the design and implementation of a Scottish monitoring and lessons learned system for all Scotland of people in the private accommodation or immigration detention here, and will she additionally commit her government to participate fully in phase two of Baroness Helena Kennedy's independent inquiry into the Glasgow asylum seeker deaths and signal her expectation that other Scottish public agencies will do likewise?"
Sturgeon said the Scottish Government has "raised a variety of issues with the UK government on our very real concerns and growing concerns over accommodation and treatment of asylum seekers, and that includes accommodation and appropriate support as well as adequate funding to public services".
She went on: "We've also repeatedly requested details of any investigation undertaken by the Home Office following deaths in asylum accommodation in Glasgow, and we've requested an update on the status of recommendations in an internal Home Office report on asylum accommodation during the pandemic that appeared in the media in April, but has not yet been made public.
"We've not yet received any approach to participate in the inquiry led by Baroness Kennedy but of course, we will respond positively and appropriately should we do so."