NO SHELTER; ASYLUM SEEKERS OUT IN COLD EXCLUSIVE Scotland's Borders Closed to Refugees as Councils Go Back on Promises to House 1500

Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland), January 4, 2004 | Go to article overview
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NO SHELTER; ASYLUM SEEKERS OUT IN COLD EXCLUSIVE Scotland's Borders Closed to Refugees as Councils Go Back on Promises to House 1500


Byline: By NORMAN SILVESTER

SCOTLAND has closed its borders to asylum seekers after eight councils refused to give them homes.

The local authorities abandoned pledges to offer shelter to 1500 refugees as part of a government drive to move them out of London.

The councils pulled out after claiming the refugees earmarked for their areas did not match strict conditions laid down about nationality and numbers.

Glasgow is the only one of Scotland's 32 local authorities to fulfil its promise to support refugees as part of the National Asylum Support Service's dispersal programme.

The city already houses the majority of the 12,000 asylum seekers mainly from the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East who live north of the Border.

But East Renfrewshire, Fife, Edinburgh, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire and Perth and Kinross councils have refused to take in refugees despite previously agreeing to do so.

The councils' backtracking means the only place where new asylum seekers can go in Scotland is the controversial Dungavel detention centre in Lanarkshire.

It is being expanded by 25 per cent and a new 44-bed unit is to be created at the secure site where asylum seekers, including children, are held while their final appeals are heard.

The holding of families and children at the unit has been fiercely criticised by campaigners.

Last week, West Dunbartonshire became the latest authority to refuse more refugees, even though they had told NASS they would offer housing and support to 150 asylum seekers.

The council claimed that NASS were unable to supply the right ``kind'' of refugee. They particularly wanted refugees who all spoke the same language or came from the same country, to cut down on translation costs.

Tim Huntingford, chief executive of West Dunbartonshire, said he regretted the council had pulled out of negotiations with NASS. He blamed the Government for changing the criteria on which refugees would be moved to the area.

He said: ``NASS made it clear that they are unwilling to agree to a contract with West Dunbartonshire Council on the basis of previous negotiations.

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NO SHELTER; ASYLUM SEEKERS OUT IN COLD EXCLUSIVE Scotland's Borders Closed to Refugees as Councils Go Back on Promises to House 1500
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