FMQs: Scottish Government pressed to improve accommodation for asylum seekers

Nicola Sturgeon was challenged to ensure the Scottish Government provides increased support for asylum seekers to guarantee those with children and babies have proper accommodation.

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie raised a new campaign “Freedom to Crawl”, launched by housing organisation Shelter and other groups, which claims that mothers and children seeking asylum are being housed in “cramped” conditions, where there is no space for children to play.

He said the existing conditions mothers and children were being kept in breached the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Scottish Government needed to raise the issue at the next joint ministerial committee.

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Mr Harvie also suggested ministers work with Glasgow City Council and charities to develop a public sector bid to provide adequate housing “so that Scotland can provide them to a standard we need not be ashamed of”.

Protesters blocked an immigration van amid a 'stand off' over Home Office raid in Glasgow earlier this month.

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Speaking at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, he said: “Immigration and asylum are reserved to the UK Government, but there’s no doubt we could be doing more in Scotland.

“The ‘Freedom to Crawl’ campaign is drawing attention to the abysmal standard of accommodation provided for asylum seekers who are pregnant or who have babies and toddlers.

Rooms are cramped and inadequately furnished, there’s no floor space for children to play or move around safely, there are multiple safety issues, no respect for privacy and alleged infractions against the rules are published publicly to humiliate the mothers.”

He added: “Local authorities are better placed and more inclined to provide appropriate accommodation. In the Smith Commission, the UK Government and every political party committed to discussions on powers coming to Scotland on asylum housing and support services. Those discussions have still not taken place, more than six years later.

"Will the Scottish Government put this issue on the agenda for the next joint ministerial committee and work with Glasgow council to develop a public sector bid for these services?”

Ms Sturgeon said she would, but would also raise the issue through other channels.

She said: “I have profound and fundamental objections to the principles underpinning the UK Government’s system of immigration and asylum, but also many of the practical aspects of that, not least the provision of inadequate accommodation for asylum seekers in Glasgow.”

She added: “Provision of accommodation for anyone is an important right, but particularly where children are concerned.

"This Parliament just before the election took a unanimous decision to incorporate the rights of the child into domestic law – something being challenged in the courts by the UK Government.

“This actually brings into sharp focus perhaps why the UK Government is seeking to challenge this because they don’t want their decisions on immigration to be subject to that scrutiny and legal protection.

"The rights of a child matter, whether that child was born here or is the child of an asylum seeker. They’re a child living in Scotland and should have the same rights.

“Discussions to devolved more powers haven’t taken place, but then we have a UK Government more interested in taking powers away from this Parliament.

"These issues are about fundamental human rights and dignity. They bring into sharp focus why these powers should lie with this Parliament because I believe this Parliament would take a much more humane approach to immigration and asylum.”

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