More asylum seekers set for Glasgow; Home Office deal renewed for five more years
The Herald (Glasgow)
GLASGOW will take thousands more asylum seekers after striking a new deal with the Home Office. The city council has signed a new five-year contract to replace an arrangement which is due to expire next week. It will play host to up to 4200 asylum seekers at any one time. Glasgow, the only Scottish authority to accept asylum seekers, has been welcoming them since January 2000, with many staying on in the city after they win leave to remain in the UK. However, the future of its asylum programme had been in doubt because of concerns over unanticipated costs. The council has previously argued that funding from the Home Office’s National Asylum Seeker Service (Nass) was not high enough to cover some of the extra costs incurred, including schooling and translation services. The new contract was signed only after the Scottish Executive agreed to give the council an extra GBP1.4m to help pay education and social work bills. It is understood that Glasgow had asked for GBP2m. Irene Graham, the council’s spokeswoman on equality issues, said: “Glasgow has a proud history of giving refuge to those who are fleeing persecution. It is important that asylum seekers who come to the UK receive a humane and warm welcome and that is what we will continue to provide in Glasgow. “Asylum seekers are housed in many communities across Glasgow and they make a positive contribution to life in the city. The systems we now have in place to support their integration are among the best to be found anywhere. It would have been wrong for the council to walk away from this issue. “I know that we will continue to work in partnership with Nass and many other agencies to ensure that asylum seekers who come to Glasgow have all the support they need while their applications are considered by the Home Office.” City leaders believe asylum seekers – especially those who qualify to stay in Britain as refugees – can make a huge contribution to the economy. Refugees are often highly educated and some of their skills are in demand. The children of asylum families have also helped raise attainment levels in several city schools and set positive examples for Scottish pupils. Early problems with the programme, including tension in some parts of the city prompted by the arrivals of thousands of foreign families, have now been largely ironed out. The new contract is not quite as big as the old one. The council currently supports 4929 asylum seekers, more than the maximum of 4200 stipulated in the new Home Office deal. However, the council is no longer the only body in Glasgow housing asylum seekers. Two others, the YMCA and the Angel Group, a London-based firm, can now do so too, so the council and its partners are in the middle of a complicated transfer of asylum seekers from one body to another.