Glasgow to pilot changes to asylum process
Glasgow could become the first city in the UK to pilot changes to the asylum process after a multi-agency taskforce recommended a number of proposed reforms.
The city is keen to lead the way on proposed changes to the existing system agreed by partners on its Asylum Taskforce, which includes the Home Office.
The proposals would make the process easier - both for people seeking asylum and for local authorities in the towns and cities where they hope to build new lives.
Reforms which Glasgow is championing include:-
- Allowing asylum seekers dispersed to Glasgow to work here - from six months after their asylum claim has been submitted until final determination of their application. This would afford people dignity and enable them to use their skills to support themselves, as well as easing pressure on local social care services. (Currently a very limited number of asylum seekers with specific skills can request permission to work (if their claim takes over a year to be processed) and permission is rarely granted)
- The creation of a Regional Partnership Board with members including Glasgow City Council, Glasgow’s Health & Social Care Partnership, the Home Office, Mears, Serco and COSLA. This would commission, monitor and report on ongoing work on asylum in the city.
- The taskforce also wants asylum seekers to be able to register in regional centres like Glasgow - instead of having to travel to Croydon to do so, at their own expense (after being dispersed to Glasgow) Currently only families and vulnerable people can register in regional centres.
- An end to people being required to travel to Liverpool to make further submissions. The taskforce believes this is unnecessary and could be more efficiently delivered in Glasgow.
Annemarie O’Donnell, chair of the Asylum Taskforce and chief executive of Glasgow City Council, said: “When people come to our city looking for help, Glaswegians want to ensure we do everything we can to assist them. This piece of work has been carried out in an open and honest environment and I want to thank colleagues from the Scottish and UK governments, COSLA, Serco, Scottish Refugee Council and the West of Scotland Housing Forum for the way in which they have approached this.
“I am confident that the recommendations in this report, and the work that we will now do together, will allow us to do much more to support some of the most vulnerable people seeking asylum in the UK and in our city.”
The taskforce, which included Glasgow City Council, the Scottish Government, the Scottish Refugee Council, COSLA, the Home Office and Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum (GWSF), was set up last summer amid concerns about planned evictions of refused asylum seekers in the city. The lock changes have now been paused by Serco, while two legal challenges are heard in court.
Meanwhile, the taskforce has been developing ways in which the relationship between local authorities, the Home Office and their contractors can be recalibrated - to create more of a partnership approach and improve information sharing.
The recommendations were contained in a taskforce closing report and were accepted by all partners, with a commitment from the Home Office to look at each one to determine what can be agreed and implemented.
Glasgow welcomes the highest number of asylum seekers in any UK local authority area and is well placed to pilot process transformation then share its learnings with other cities. It is believed that other areas across the UK are watching developments here with interest.
The proposals would not lead to higher numbers of asylum seekers coming to Glasgow as dispersal would still be managed by the Home Office, with ongoing monitoring through the new Partnership Board.
The Scottish Refugee Council said it welcomes Glasgow City Council adding its voice to the campaign for the right to work, but policy officer Graham O’Neill called for caution at this stage the as the Home Office has only agreed to consider recommendations, not implement them.
Mr O’Neill said: “The taskforce’s recommendations around the right to work and safe access to the asylum process in Scotland would both make a huge difference to people’s lives. However, the Home Office has merely agreed to consider these recommendations set out today.
“We support the proposals and call on the Home Office to give them the most serious consideration. Every day we work with men and women seeking refugee protection who are desperate to work, to contribute their talents and skills and play a full part in Scottish society.
“As well as the right to work, the taskforce made a number of other recommendations, including the establishment of a partnership board to give the city oversight on how the Home office and Serco and Mears are operating its communities. This board must also focus on finding practical solutions to the crisis of homelessness and destitution among people refused asylum as a matter of urgency.”