Refugees in Scotland to be given right to vote

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Refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland will be able to vote under new plans being put forward at Holyrood.

Yesterday, in what would be a UK-first, the Scottish Government confirmed proposals to extend the voting franchise to all resident EU and non-EU adults, and said this would include those seeking asylum.

Syrian refugee families arrive at their new homes on the Isle of Bute on December 4, 2015.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Syrian refugee families arrive at their new homes on the Isle of Bute on December 4, 2015. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

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It follows a consultation on extending the right to vote in Scotland, a move which would require a two-thirds majority in the Scottish Parliament to bring into force.

Parliamentary business minister Joe FitzPatrick told MSPs: “In my view, people who have been welcomed here as refugees and people who are going through the process of seeking asylum should be included.

“Scotland is a welcoming country and our intention to extend the opportunity to vote to all those who are legally resident in Scotland, whatever their place of birth, should include refugees and asylum seekers.”

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Sabir Zaza, Chief Executive of the Scottish Refugee Council welcomed the news:
“Refugees often flee their homes because their human rights are denied.

“For people from the refugee community to then have access to all their rights including the right to vote in Scotland is a hugely significant point in their journey towards integration, citizenship and the ability to play an active role in society.”

Holyrood was granted new powers over the running of elections under the 2016 Scotland Act and ministers are set to make major changes to the country’s electoral system.