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New reports by Scottish Government and LSE advocate improved support for asylum seekers and refugees


Updated refugee integration strategy for Scotland published; LSE details proactive responses to support asylum seekers in London

Date of Publication:

Two new documents published last week set out positive approaches for supporting refugees and asylum seekers in different areas of the UK.

Report coverOn Thursday, the Scottish Government published the first part of an updated 'New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy', building on its original 2013 integration strategy. It was developed together with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and the Scottish Refugee Council.

A new 52-page strategic framework document can be downloaded here.

As the document explains, the term 'New Scots' is used to refer to people living in Scotland who have been forcibly displaced or are making a claim that they have a well-founded fear of persecution.

The document sets out Scotland's strategy to support the integration of refugees, asylum seekers and other forced migrants within Scotland's communities. Taking a markedly different approach to the Conservative government's framing of asylum seekers as 'illegal migrants', the Scottish Government says its new strategy reaffirms Scotland's commitment to stand in solidarity with people who need refugee protection and a safe place to call home.

Six key principles are outlined in the Scottish Government's strategy for supporting refugees and asylum seekers:

  • Integration into communities from the first day of arrival, and not just once leave to remain has been granted.
  • A rights-based approach, which recognises people's rights and aims to ensure people can access information about their rights and entitlements, understand them and are empowered to exercise them, as well as having access to the services they need in order to participate in society and lead their lives.
  • An awareness of the past trauma suffered by refugees and asylum seekers combined with a 'restorative' approach to repair harm, resolve difficulties, and build and maintain positive relationships.
  • Directly involving and engaging people with lived experience of forced in decision-making processes regarding the integration of refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Building inclusive, intercultural communities through dialogue and mutual learning between the many different cultures that make up Scottish society, including supporting language and cultural learning.
  • Collaboration and partnership between government, local authorities and the third sector across Scotland involved in supporting refugees and people seeking asylum.

Maureen Chalmers, the spokesperson for communities and wellbeing at COSLA, said: "This framework is built on the latest research, on years of consultations with refugees and people seeking asylum, those who support them, and on discussions across the partnership: how can Scotland continue to offer the best possible welcome to people who have been forced to flee their countries?"

According to COSLA, the second part of the New Scots Framework detailing the delivery plan to implement the strategic framework will be published in June 2024.

Also new last week was a 16-page policy brief from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) about how local councils in London can build, and have built, proactive responses to address challenges faced by asylum seekers.

You can download it here.

As the brief's author, Melissa Weihmayer, explains in a post for LSE's British Politics and Policy blog, rapid changes in the Government's asylum policy exacerbate challenges for local councils, forcing them to respond in reactive and crisis-like ways. Councils are unable to plan for the medium or long-term and this raises questions about how local authorities can meet their statutory obligations towards refugees and asylum seekers and help prepare them for integration in the UK.

The policy brief describes the responses that London's borough councils have been developing to address such challenges, highlighting three ways that councils are adapting despite a lack of resources.

Melissa Weihmayer noted: "Despite these severe pressures on local government, it's possible for councils to respond more proactively to various challenges that asylum-seekers face. Doing so is a form of resistance against both the crisis narratives within migration discourse as well as the frantic policymaking practices of the central government level. The councils successful in addressing asylum-seekers' needs did so through experimentation and information-sharing with other councils, making creative use of existing resources and adjusting their internal structures to create asylum teams. […] This approach demonstrates that responses that support asylum-seekers are possible and even effective, improving outcomes for both people seeking asylum and the communities in which they live."

Included in the policy brief are recommendations for central government, pan-London, and local authority stakeholders for how to maximise existing capacity and build new capacity to address challenges around asylum.

The author argues that the a starting point is for the Government to view local authorities as key partners in asylum policy by consulting them regularly, sharing information more consistently, and making funding available for their response.