Asylum Seekers (Glasgow City Council)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 17th June 2021.

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Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Labour

The First Minister may be aware of reports that Glasgow City Council intends to extend the ban on asylum seekers coming to Glasgow as a result of the constraints of accommodation. We all know about the inadequacies of the Home Office’s policy and its privatised service, but surely that is tantamount to an abdication of responsibility by us as Scots and Glaswegians to some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Does the First Minister agree that we should seek to lift the ban as quickly as possible and explore every possible opportunity to improve quality of life for the 5,000 or so asylum seekers in Glasgow, such as extending concessionary travel to them free of charge?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

I say this in relation to the current political leadership of Glasgow City Council, but also, to be fair, in relation to its last Labour leadership: Glasgow City Council is probably the last organisation that deserves to be criticised for how asylum seekers are treated. It has been one of the few areas that has welcomed asylum seekers and done everything that it can to support them.

However, there is an issue about the responsibility of taking in asylum seekers when the Home Office and the United Kingdom Government are refusing to put in place adequate provision for accommodation. These are difficult issues, but the target of our criticism—I suspect that Paul Sweeney and I agree more than we disagree on the issue—and the target of demands for change should be the UK Government, not Glasgow City Council.

I want asylum seekers to be welcomed here and I want to make sure that we have provision for asylum seekers that has dignity and support at heart, and that could not be further removed from the very punitive and heartless approach of the Home Office. I genuinely say to Labour that we should be united on the issue and should not seek to blame Glasgow City Council for a problem that is not of its making.