Asylum Seekers

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour 12:00 pm, 29th March 2007

To ask the First Minister what progress has been made on the implementation of the Scottish Executive's agreement on the treatment of asylum seeker families reached with the Home Office in March 2006. (S2F-2808)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

We have made significant progress. A number of measures have been in place for some time, including enhanced background checks on immigration staff working in Scotland and fieldwork for inspections of children's services for asylum seekers. Last week, the Minister for Education and Young People wrote to the Education Committee and the Communities Committee to confirm that we have now also reached agreement on lead professional arrangements, which should ensure that the particular needs of children are taken into account when decisions are being implemented.

Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour

The First Minister will be aware that the pupils and staff of Drumchapel high school in my constituency played a prominent part in drawing attention to the treatment of asylum seeker families, which led to the agreement that was announced in March 2006. This morning, when I spoke to Wilson Blakey, the head teacher, he confirmed that the pupils appreciate what the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament have been trying to do.

Does the First Minister agree that the Minister for Education and Young People's letter, in which he urged the Home Office to take a sensible and pragmatic approach to reviewing the asylum applications of more than 1,000 so-called legacy cases in Scotland, should be welcomed and that such an approach should be actively pursued, not only because it is backed by the Scottish Refugee Council, not only because it will be supported by the majority of decent Scottish people and not only because it makes common sense, but because it is the right and just thing to do?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Bill Butler is aware that I have a long-standing personal interest in the issue. I believe strongly that we need a firm but fair and consistent immigration policy and a consistent but strong approach to assessing the applications of asylum seekers to establish who are genuine refugees and should therefore be allowed to stay in the country. At the same time, there are a number of families, particularly in Glasgow, who have been in this country for a long time. Their children have grown up here and they regard themselves as Scots rather than people who have recently come here. That is why I believe that those legacy cases, as they are known, are so important.

We have received a commitment from Home Office ministers that the cases will be properly looked at. I welcome that commitment, and I want to ensure that when it is implemented due care is taken in relation to the futures of those young people. Their contribution in our schools, particularly in some of the most deprived parts of Glasgow, to raising standards and even in some cases to leadership as prefects and in other positions of responsibility has been admirable and successful.

Alongside a fair but tough immigration policy, I want to see a proper, sensitive and considered approach to those who would be considered legacy cases—as a result of which I would expect many of them to be allowed to stay.