Hannah Rodger, Reporter
THE SNP has launched a scathing attack on Scottish Secretary David Mundell after the Tory government refused to stop making refugees north of the border travel to London to lodge their claims.
A report published this week on the progress of the Scotland Bill showed there had been no movement on changing the current legislation for refugees in Scotland, who have to pay to travel to Croydon to be assessed.
MSP Sandra White has described the decision as “pig headed” following a speech made by Mundell on new powers for Holyrood, which he dubbed Holyrood 2.0.
The Scottish Refugee Council argued in their submission to the Smith Commission that people seeking asylum in Scotland should be allowed to be assessed and lodge a claim here, rather than travel hundreds of miles to do so.
For the majority of people claiming asylum in the country, they have limited or no finances, many cannot speak English, and few have the geographical knowledge to make a long cross-country trip.
White, an MSP for the Glasgow Kelvin ward, urged Mundell to rethink the plans, and said: "It’s ludicrous that someone who arrives in Scotland seeking refuge, often penniless, is told they must pay out of their own pocket to travel to London in order to lodge an asylum claim
“We already have the capacity in Glasgow to screen the most vulnerable asylum seekers and, considering how low the numbers of asylum seekers whose first point of arrival is in Scotland, there’s no reason why this couldn’t become the norm.
“The UK Government is being completely pig-headed in forcing desperate asylum seekers to make this entirely unnecessary journey south.
“In the same week as David Mundell boasted about delivering ‘Holyrood 2.0’ he is refusing to budge on this very simple demand that would make a huge difference to people fleeing war and persecution.
“The SNP in government has been committed to ensuring that refugees are given a warm welcome to their new home. David Mundell should think again.”
Owen Fenn, a development worker at the Govan and Craigton Integration Network which helps asylum seekers said he had similar concerns about the policy and said it could be encouraging people to enter a "black economy" to raise funds to travel.
He said: "In my view if someone arrives in a city they should be able to claim asylum at a local Home Office or police station. Its a ridiculous situation …The Home Office is trying to centralise services…[The process] needs to be made a lot more accessible."
The Scottish Refugee Survival Trust, which provides grants for asylum seekers to travel, also argued that the policy needs to change, describing it as "unacceptable".
The Sunday Herald contacted the Home Office for comment but they failed to respond