– in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd March 2023.
1. To ask the Scottish Government what contact it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding concerns over the potential impact in Scotland of the proposed Illegal Migration Bill. (S6O-02029)
I wrote to the United Kingdom Government to state unequivocally that the Scottish Government does not support the bill, which will remove offering a place of safety to desperate people who are fleeing conflict and persecution, and I have urged the UK Government not to progress with it. The First Minister has echoed that during First Minister’s question time and condemned the cruel and inhumane provisions in the bill. We have a moral obligation to offer a place of safety to people who are fleeing conflict and persecution because that is enshrined in international law and because that is the fair thing to do.
The bill is proceeding at pace through the House of Commons, and the more we discuss it, the more horrified those of us who believe in a compassionate, global Scotland become. Will the cabinet secretary again confront the Tories on that monstrous bill and the monstrous provisions in it, which could mean that women will have no protection if they have been trafficked and children will be detained for the alleged crime of seeking sanctuary on this island?
T he restriction on the provision of support to human trafficking victims would penalise some of society’s most vulnerable people—those who have suffered unimaginable trauma, including through sexual exploitation or through being forced, through violence, to work for no pay in absolutely appalling conditions. These shameful proposals would create additional barriers for trafficking victims and tighten the grip of perpetrators by reducing the likelihood that people will seek help. Children will also be left in an appalling position until they turn 18, when they will be detained and removed to a third country in which they have no connections and no family. The bill is totally unacceptable.
The UK Government’s Illegal Immigration Bill will mean that those arriving in the UK via illegal means will not be eligible for asylum claims and they will be detained on arrival in the UK. Dungavel immigration removal centre is Scotland’s only detention centre. It can detain up to 130 men and 12 women. It is likely that there will be a huge increase in the number of people being detained there as the process for securing a successful asylum application will become much harder due to the restrictive rules. What action is the Scottish Government taking to liaise with the UK Government on the issue, as it is likely to completely overwhelm that detention centre in Scotland?
Foysol Choudhury’s question is really apposite. We might imagine that, because some of what is being dealt with by the UK Government is very focused on people crossing the English Channel, the issues are far away from here and may not touch us directly. However, raising the point about the Dungavel facility, which is, of course, managed by the UK Home Office, reminds us that the issue is absolutely on our doorstep. It is not just a matter of human rights and supporting the principles of international law, justice and fairness; unfortunately, given the UK Government’s plans, we are talking about something that will also be reflected in institutions in Scotland, which, sadly, we have no control over.
We are absolutely opposed to the bill and, if ever a reminder were needed that the Scottish Parliament should be in charge of immigration and human rights, that is it. We should not leave it up to others to make bad decisions on our behalf.