GCU research student contributes to key report on asylum seekers

23 May 2017

A PhD researcher from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) has contributed key evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s newly published Equalities and Human Rights Committee report on the issue of destitution among asylum seekers.

The report, entitled ‘Hidden Lives - New Beginnings: Destitution, asylum and insecure immigration status in Scotland’, emphasises that the Scottish Government, CoSLA and third sector partners need to consider providing a fully funded independent advocacy service for destitute asylum seekers and people with insecure immigration.

The Committee, Convened by Christina McKelvie MSP, said early advocacy would save the public purse in the long-term through saving on healthcare and social services. It would provide the best opportunity for people to start the integration process.

GCU PhD researcher in Social Work Natalia Farmer presented her research to the Committee, having worked with the Asylum Seeker Housing Project (ASH) to interview families with no access to welfare benefits or housing assistance.

Natalia found evidence of a significant tension between immigration laws which exclude families from mainstream funding support and Scottish social services, which have to safeguard children in need under the Social Work (Scotland) Act and the Children (Scotland) Act. As a result of her work, the report recommends that the Care Inspectorate must consider how it can contribute to better social work practice around young asylum seekers and families with children and to ensure standards are set and being met.

Natalia also called for the establishment of a new frontline advice and support service for migrants to help end destitution among children in Scotland.

According to the UNHRC, the UN Refugee Agency, in 2015 34,000 people were forcibly displaced every day as a result of conflict or persecution.

The report found the asylum and immigration system to be “peppered with points at which the risk of destitution becomes likely”.

Immigration and asylum policy is reserved to the UK Government. However, the Scottish Government can provide support to asylum seekers under its devolved functions, such as education, social care and health.

Natalia said: “Those with insecure immigration status should receive a humane response when approaching local authorities but my research suggests this is not always the case. There are a lot of complexities around these issues but local authorities have a duty of care to children, regardless of their parents’ immigration status.

“My recommendations to the Scottish Government Committee are that a human rights approach is a vital part of the social services’ work with families, and that an advocate accompanies the families to meetings to provide consistent support and advice. I am delighted that the report has taken these recommendations forward.”

Read the full report.