Refugees should have access to peer support says charity

Refugees should be able to access support, guidance and friendship from those who have first-hand experience of navigating the asylum system, a charity has said.

The Scottish Government should introduce a peer support scheme for refugees in Scotland

The British Red Cross has called on the Scottish Government to introduce a peer support system for refugees in Scotland in order to help refugees settle in the country.

The research by the charity finds that living in “constant financial hardship" has a significant negative effect of people’s health and mental wellbeing.

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It adds that even when in receipt of asylum support, refugees are forced into extended periods of destitution, unable to buy food, toiletries, or clothing for themselves.

Phil Arnold, head of refugee services for Scotland at the British Red Cross, said: “People who have been forced to flee their homes to escape war and persecution face many additional difficulties as they settle in the UK too.

“Destitution prevents people from living a healthy life, significantly affecting mental wellbeing, which is compounded by a lack of information and support to navigate the asylum system. Things are just not working as they should.

“Every refugee matters. Across the UK, people seeking asylum have made positive contributions to their communities, and play a valued role where they live. We must listen to their voices represented in this report.

“We are therefore calling on the Scottish Government to establish and fund a pilot peer support system that will ensure new arrivals are able to access support, guidance and friendship from people who have shared experiences of navigating the asylum system.

“This must be part of a package of reforms to prevent destitution, including action from the Home Office to establish the right to work and an initial cash grant so people can purchase clothing, phones and other essential items.”

Responding, a Scottish Government spokesperson highlighted existing support for refugees and a £250k grant to support a hardship fund co-ordinated by the British Red Cross.

He added: “No one should be made destitute because of their immigration status.

"We do not have powers to change UK Government laws on No Recourse to Public Funds and have repeatedly raised issues affecting those seeking asylum, including destitution, and continue to push for the UK Government to make improvements to the way people are supported by the Home Office.”

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