Urgent call for four nations meetings as asylum seekers housed in hotels in Scotland by Westminster without telling Scottish authorities

In a letter to Westminster’s minister for safe and legal migration Kevin Foster, Ms Robison said despite having raised issues surrounding engagement between Scotland and the UK Government over asylum in October, the Home Office had procured more hotels in Scotland without informing local authorities’ umbrella body Cosla or the Scottish Government.

The Scottish social justice secretary said the use of hotels to house those seeking asylum should be stopped, saying people should be “accommodated within communities” to allow integration.

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Ms Robison also raised concerns over reports that asylum seekers had not been able to obtain “culturally appropriate food” while housed in temporary accommodation by the UK Government, or access services such as mobile phones or internet access, English language lessons and “essential toiletries” .

Demonstrators take part in a Refugees Welcome rally in Glasgow.

She also said people had not been able to access independent legal advice, saying specialist lawyers were not based in the areas where asylum seekers were being housed.

The minister said: “I remain concerned about the lack of engagement and notification to Scottish Government, Cosla and local authorities prior to any asylum contingency accommodation procurement. Despite my raising this issue in October, the Home Office has since sought further hotels in Scotland without the courtesy of informing me or adequate advance engagement with Cosla and Scottish local authorities.”

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Ms Robison added: “I would be grateful to learn how the Home Office is ensuring that people are aware of the services they can access and have sufficient support to maintain their health and wellbeing. Assurance that essential returned services are being appropriately engaged with would also be appreciated.”

She said: “I have repeatedly invited the home secretary [Priti Patel] to engage with the Scottish Government, Cosla and our local authorities on asylum dispersal.

“I am also keen that the four nations meetings on asylum, which previously took place on a regular basis up to 2019, are re-established to enable discussion about issues of common interest across the UK.”

Asylum and immigration are reserved to the UK Government. The Home Office has previously argued that as a result of the lack of volunteers for the dispersal scheme to house refugees within UK councils, it is forced to find contingency hotel accommodation.

Official figures show Scotland has about 6.8 per cent of the UK supported, accommodated asylum-seeking population and houses 1.3 per cent of all supported asylum seekers currently in hotels.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Office consulted with all relevant local authority leads in Scotland prior to implementation to agree arrangements and address any concerns. This joint working has ensured wrap around support for the new arrivals, enabling successful integration and operations in new regions to such work.

“There has been substantial regular engagement with Cosla and the third sector in providing support, including winter clothing, as well as activities like English classes.”

The spokesperson said the UK Government’s “New Plan for Immigration” would fix the broken system and reform the asylum system to make it “fair, but firm”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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