Author :LAURA PATERSON
Scotland’s Equalities Secretary has accused the UK Government of operating a two-tier immigration system.
Angela Constance said Scotland had welcomed thousands of Syrian refugees under the resettlement programme but the support they were given differs from others fleeing persecution.
“We have a two-tier system that is utterly, utterly unacceptable,” she told MSPs in a Scottish Parliament debate commemorating World Refugee Day.
“The tailored support that is part of the resettlement programme is in complete contrast to the lack of support in the asylum system.”
She said the UK asylum system “seems to have destitution built in”, adding: “This notion of the two-tier system must be challenged, it’s absolutely unacceptable”.
READ MORE: Immigration policy ‘must meet Scotland’s needs’
Green MSP Ross Green called for the Scottish Government’s move to give the vote to refugees and asylum seekers to be extended across the UK.
“The right to vote is an essential component of integration,” he said.
“For as long as someone who is a refugee or an asylum seeker is resident here this is their home, and the decisions that we take in this place, in Westminster and in our council chambers affect them just as much, and in many cases even more so, than everyone else.
“If refugees are to be able to integrate fully in Scottish society, if we are to demonstrate that they are truly welcome, then they must have the right to vote.”
He added: “There’s only so much that can be done at Scottish or local levels of course.
“For the most part, refugee and asylum policy is reserved to Westminster and under Westminster British asylum policy has been nothing short of disgraceful.”
READ MORE: Scotland should be exempt from immigration target
Conservative Michelle Ballantyne praised the UK Government’s commitment to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees, also mentioned in her amendment to the Scottish Government motion.
Speaking about refugees in general, she said: “We must ensure that all those welcomed into communities in Scotland are able to live free from persecution and as valid members of our communities.
“Our job is to make sure that they have new homes but our job is also to make sure that if they want to return to their own homes in the countries they came from that we do everything we can to enable that as well.”
Labour’s Monica Lennon said she could not support the Tory amendment, saying: “It fails to recognise that we have a UK asylum system that is lacking in compassion and humanity.”
Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton said the UK Government reneging on its promise to take in 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees meant he could not back the Conservative amendment.