Mr Neil attacked the UK government’s proposal to cut financial support for those who are refused asylum in the UK, saying it will leave traumatised men, women and children “destitute”.
In a letter to UK government immigration minister James Brokenshire, Mr Neil said: “The proposals will cut support to some of the most vulnerable people in our society, who only receive that support because they would otherwise be destitute.
“The Scottish Government believes that the proposals, which seem designed to shift responsibility and cost onto other bodies, particularly local authorities, are wrong in principle.
“It is highly unlikely they will achieve their objective, and they will fundamentally undermine our efforts to create a fairer Scotland.”
He added: “Destitution should never be an outcome of the asylum system.
“When we talk about asylum seekers, we are not talking about objects.
“We are first and foremost talking about vulnerable people, families, men, women and their children – people who have often been through great trauma and who deserve to be treated fairly and equally and with dignity and respect.” Mr Neil pointed to a previous pilot project which tried to stop support for families who had reached the end of the asylum process and criticised the timing of the consultation on the proposals.
The Scottish Government has said that if it had control over immigration it would adopt a more “humane approach” to asylum seekers and refugees.
Mr Neil said: “We strongly believe that those refused asylum for whatever reason should be treated with fairness and compassion. We will continue to do all we can to campaign against these unfair and inhumane proposals.”
Gary Christie, head of policy and communications at the Scottish Refugee Council, said: “This attack on those whose claims are turned down, including many families already on the breadline, is unfair and dangerous.
“It is unfair because thousands of Home Office decisions on people’s asylum claims later turn out to be incorrect.
“We know that around 30 per cent of appeals against refusals are successful, a huge figure that affects many individuals and families.
“It is also unfair because many people are simply unable to return to their home country. They may be expected to return to a war zone or to a country whose government refuses to accept them.”
Mr Christie added: “The proposal is dangerous as it will force people into abject destitution, leaving them exposed to an increased risk of violence and exploitation on the streets.”