Scotland set to get more control over asylum seekers
THE Scottish Parliament could soon be given devolved powers to deal with asylum seekers under new proposals aimed at reforming the immigration system.
The current system means that all claims for asylum in the UK are made in London.
But talks have already taken place between MSPs and the immigration office to reform the system and give Scotland more power to determine applications north of the border.
Politicians today said giving devolved powers to Scotland would help speed up the process for the many asylum seekers left "in limbo" while they wait for a decision from the Home Office.
The move comes amid criticism over controversial dawn raids that have seen failed asylum seekers forcibly removed from their homes.
Under the proposed reforms, the Scottish Parliament would have the power to scrap dawn raids and look at new ways to carry out deportation orders.
First Minister Jack McConnell is to meet Immigration Minister Liam Byrne on Thursday to discuss how asylum applications to Scotland could be dealt with in Edinburgh.
The Home Office today confirmed to the Evening News that the issue of dawn raids would be top of the agenda when the Holyrood First Minister meets Mr Byrne. A spokeswoman said: "We know there have been concerns about enforcement including dawn raids in Scotland.
"There are a number of groups up there that are highly critical of the methods used. We accept the sensitivities of the issue.
"Mr Byrne will discuss this with Mr McConnell on Thursday along with other issues concerned with immigration and asylum."
Last night Mr Byrne met with Scottish Labour MPs to discuss the potential reform of the system allowing for some devolution of decisions and enforcement to Scotland.
One of the MPs present, Glasgow South West's Ian Davidson, said it could result in the devolution of decision making to immigration officials in Scotland.
He said today: "We are going to have devolved administration of decision making so it can be handled in Scotland by the staff we have there.
"We were pressing very strongly that we should speed up the process because what we regard as unacceptable is leaving people in limbo for long periods of time, with uncertainty over the decision that is being made and then refusing asylum uncertain as to when action will be taken.
"We accept that dawn raids are undesirable but the difficulty is finding an alternative.
"We've examined the question of voluntary return.
"At the moment we offer 2000 of cash in kind for people who are refused asylum or overstay to go back but there has not been a great take up of that."
Mr Davidson said a scheme offering families the chance to meet officials voluntarily before deportation had failed.
He said that responsibility to find a better solution now depended on those campaign groups who wanted an end to dawn raids to suggest an alternative.
He said he hoped that Mr Byrne would raise with Mr McConnell the problem of delays with the judicial review process in the High Court in Scotland and stressed that measures needed to be taken to stop failed asylum seekers from England moving to Scotland to make a second bid.
Mr Davidson said this was a loophole which needed to be closed.
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