Council leaders seek urgent talks with Home Secretary on asylum accommodation

Council leaders in Scotland are seeking “urgent” talks with Home Secretary Priti Patel on what they can do to help accommodate asylum seekers.

Home Secretary Priti Patel speaks at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.
Home Secretary Priti Patel speaks at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.

Kelly Parry, community wellbeing spokeswoman for the local authority body Cosla, wrote to the Home Office after Ms Patel claimed that 31 of the 32 councils north of the border had “refused to participate in the dispersal scheme” for those coming to the UK.

Ms Parry insisted that all councils in Scotland “recognise their responsibilities” in this area.

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But she said: “Scottish local government has also been clear in its opposition to the current approach around asylum dispersal in general and the use of hotels specifically.

“There is no funding in place for local statutory services to support people seeking asylum and, unfortunately, the current scale of hotel use across the UK is a direct consequence of the approach that the UK Government has chosen to take.

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Priti Patel accuses Scotland of 'not pulling its weight' over asylum seeker cris...

“I have written to the Home Secretary seeking urgent dialogue on the role that Scottish councils can play in ensuring that asylum seekers are appropriately accommodated and supported.”

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Councils in Scotland believe that there is a “workable solution” to the issues, and Ms Parry urged the UK Government to “engage in discussions with us as a matter of priority”.

She added: “All 32 councils in Scotland recognise their responsibilities to support the important role that the UK plays in providing safety to those fleeing oppression in their country of origin.

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“This has manifested itself in our unanimous and ongoing support for UK resettlement programmes and, most recently, our participation in schemes for Afghan nationals and the national rota for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.”

Ms Parry spoke out after the Home Secretary told MPs in the Commons on Monday that “local authorities around the country and in particular in Scotland have not played their part in actually offering dispersal accommodation”.

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Ms Patel added that “the Scottish Government has done absolutely nothing to lift a finger in terms of actually supporting the policy of dispersal accommodation”.

SNP MP Stuart McDonald branded those comments “outrageous”.

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He insisted: “Every single local authority in Scotland is anxious to play its part in resettling refugees.

“When it comes to dispersal accommodation, Glasgow has stepped up to the plate while other local authorities are withdrawing from the scheme, and they are withdrawing from the scheme quite rightly because the Home Office refuses to put in place support which requires them to do that.”