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2. To ask the Scottish Government whether an independent Scotland could allow people whose immigration status is being challenged through a tribunal or court to continue to work, study or volunteer. (S5O-03774)
Individuals and families who come from all over the world to work, study and settle in Scotland make vital contributions to Scotland’s economy and the delivery of public services. Inward migration enriches our society and communities.
The Scottish Government is sympathetic to all those who have difficulties navigating the complex and increasingly restrictive UK immigration rules. The immigration system should treat all individuals with dignity, fairness and respect; where appropriate, they should be allowed to work and support themselves during the immigration process.
In the event of independence, decisions relating to the shaping of migration policy would be for the Government of the day to make. However, this Scottish Government has long argued that, in the case of asylum seekers, the right to work should be granted to help support their integration and enable them to contribute to their new communities where they can do so.
The Home Office currently prevents people from working, studying or claiming welfare support while their immigration status is being challenged. I have supported constituents who have been left with no choice other than to rely on charities for food, clothing and housing. Will the minister join me in condemning that inhumane approach from the United Kingdom Home Office, and will he give assurances we will do things differently in an independent Scotland, with a person-centred and fair approach to immigration policy?
The Scottish Government has long expressed concern about the current UK Government’s immigration policies, including those on asylum seekers, and about the UK Government position that asylum seekers can have no recourse to public funds. That is an area in which we could, of course, have different policies as an independent country.
Outwith the constitutional question of independence, if this Parliament had powers to set the rules and criteria for a Scottish visa, we could think about how to make immigration policy differently here in Scotland, but within a UK framework.