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STUC 2013 Perth

End the forced destitution of asylum seekers and embrace immigration in Scotland

John Stevenson
John Stevenson

Congress slammed the Westminster Government’s rigid and unfair approach to immigration and called for a more humane and economically sensible approach in Scotland, to support a sustained economic recovery.

It set out a range of measures to challenge current immigration policy through Holyrood and to campaign with other organisations such as the Scottish Refugee Council, to allow asylum seekers the right to work and to end the arbitrary cap on migration. It also pledged to challenge the far right at every opportunity.

UNISON Scotland has long challenged the worst aspects of the current system and campaigned for a more humane approach to asylum seekers and migrant workers. Seconding the Black Members' motion, John Stevenson said that we should remember that about a million people born in Scotland currently live elsewhere.

“We like to tell ourselves that those migrants enrich the communities they go to, so why would that not be the same for people who choose – or are forced – to come to Scotland,” he asked.

“As someone much wiser than me once said: ’Immigration does not swamp, it enriches’, and in Scotland terms it is also essential to economic growth.”

He pointed out that although immigration is a reserved matter, much of the policy on how migrants and asylum seekers are treated in Scotland does come within the remit of the Scottish Government and Local Authorities, which gives some flexibility.

John dismissed far right arguments that migrants are a drain on our benefits system, telling Congress that a single asylum seeker over 18 gets only £36.62 a week. If their claim fails they end up with nothing, relying on benefits and charity.

“But not from choice,” said John. “It is because they are not allowed to work, to provide for themselves, to contribute to society through work and taxes. They are not spongers, they are victims of a crass system of forced destitution.”

He told of the hidden despair created by immigration legislation including the disgrace of forced family separation. John called for the Scottish Government to bring forward policies to improve the quality of life for immigrants such as actively welcoming and including migrants and asylum seekers; and improving information and access to health, social and community services, as proposed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

“Yes we need a change at UK level but we also need to push the Scottish Government to do what it can within its existing powers,” said John.

18 April 2013

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