Afghan Refugees

– in the Scottish Parliament on 30th September 2021.

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Photo of Maggie Chapman Maggie Chapman Green

3. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on Afghan refugee relocation and resettlement with reference to the different elements of the new Scots strategy. (S6O-00219)

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is committed to playing its part in welcoming and supporting people who are fleeing Afghanistan. We continue to urge the United Kingdom Government to increase the number of refugees that it will accept and to provide more information and confirmation of a start date for the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme.

As of 26 September, around 230 people in 61 families had arrived in Scotland across nine local authority areas under the relocation scheme for locally employed staff. In line with the key principle of the new Scots refugee integration strategy, local authorities are working to support their integration from day 1 of their arrival in Scotland. Partnership and collaboration are central to the new Scots approach. The Scottish Government is working with the Home Office, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, local authorities and third sector and community organisations to provide people with the safety and security that they need to rebuild their lives.

Photo of Maggie Chapman Maggie Chapman Green

We know that one key way to support asylum seekers and refugees to settle and become part of their new country is to give them access to work. We know, as we have already heard in the chamber today, that we need workers in Scotland, as many sectors are under immense staffing pressure. Employers that want to consider refugees for employment in sectors that are crying out for more staff have contacted many of us. What support can we make available for people who are resettled via the Afghan relocation and assistance policy to find employment, and what can we do to provide support for employers, such as care homes in my region, that want to support refugees into employment?

Does the cabinet secretary agree that, as well as refugees, people who are seeking asylum should be given the right to work? Despite the Prime Minister’s 2019 promise

, the UK Government has refused to review its policy on the matter.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Short questions and answers, please.

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Scottish National Party

I agree entirely with the sensible points that my colleague has made. The new Scots strategy recognises that integration is a long-term and multifaceted process. We work to ensure that people can access the support and services that they need as they settle in Scotland, including those relating to health, education, language, employability and welfare rights.

I will raise the member’s specific questions about employment, training and employers that wish to employ Afghans as a priority.

Photo of Bill Kidd Bill Kidd Scottish National Party

I thank the cabinet secretary for his elaboration on the new Scots integration strategy. With 2.6 million Afghan refugees living in other countries and 3.5 million Afghan refugees internally displaced, will the cabinet secretary join the First Minister and me in reiterating that the UK Government’s aim to resettle a total of 20,000 Afghan refugees, including 5,000 the first year, is entirely insufficient?

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Scottish National Party

Yes, I will. Although the announcement of a UK Afghan resettlement scheme is welcome in principle, the commitment to 20,000 in the long term and just 5,000 in the first year is inadequate. We believe that a commitment to a substantial increase in numbers is required if the UK Government is to meet its responsibilities. It is right that the new Afghan resettlement scheme will be in addition to the UK’s existing global resettlement commitment.

Photo of Foysol Choudhury Foysol Choudhury Labour

The cabinet secretary will know that hundreds of thousands of Afghans are fleeing from persecution and more than two decades of war. Scotland must play its part in helping to resettle them. What provisions has the Scottish Government made to ensure that councils have the funding to provide the new infrastructure to resettle refugees and help them to make the most of their new lives here?

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Scottish National Party

I commend the Labour Party for its tone and constructive suggestions on this question. The member will know that the funding package is a matter for the Home Office, and we have been pressing the Home Office and the UK Government to ensure that funding is fully in place. We are working on that with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities in general and with specific local authorities that are making moves to try to accept the Afghan refugees.

I am happy to work on behalf of the member and his party in pressing the UK Government to deliver on its commitments, and I urge him to amplify the calls that he has made in Parliament today.