1000 Failed Asylum Families Face Being Deported

More than 1000 asylum seeker families in Scotland are facing forced deportation, potentially involving dawn raids, the Home Office said yesterday. The figure emerged during a visit to Scotland by Liam Byrne, the UK Immigration Minister, who was announcing the creation of two teams in Glasgow to speed up asylum applications.

He said there were 4500 adults and children in 1500 asylum seeker families in Scotland, two-thirds of whom had exhausted the appeals process, meaning they were now living in the UK illegally and could be deported.

He said the Home Office would “bend over backwards” to help them return voluntarily. But he said dawn raids would remain an option of last resort, citing figures from a scheme letting families present themselves for deportation. Of 140 people in 40 families who were involved in September, just one person turned up.

Mr Byrne was speaking after meeting First Minister Jack McConnell to discuss how the treatment of asylum seeker families could be improved. The long decision-making process means many asylum families put down roots, sending their children to school, and there is an outcry when they are finally removed.

Mr Byrne said Scotland had “blazed a trail” in highlighting the issue, prompting a UK-level review of dealing with families. He said the two new teams should allow decisions within six months. Each family would be assigned a dedicated case worker, rather than dealing with the Immigration and Nationality Directorate in Croydon. The result would be “fast but fair decision-making”, with families more willing to accept the reason for their decision, and so fewer forced removals.

Mr Byrne said individuals would be offered an incentive package of up to £3000 in cash and training to help them start afresh in their home country.

He resisted blaming the Scottish courts for delays in processing appeals, but acknowledged the system could be quicker. “I am here today to ask the question [of the courts], ‘Is there more that we can do to help?”

Kenny MacAskill, SNP justice spokesman, said the new teams were a “sham” as they had no devolved powers to take account of local issues.

Calling for immigration powers to be given to Holyrood, he said: “Our economic needs and social wants are different and distinct to the rest of the UK. As a nation of emigrants, we wish to see immigrants to Scotland treated with kindness and compassion, not brutality and oppression.”

For the Tories, Margaret Mitchell said any measure leading to an increase in acceptance of asylum decisions was welcome, but said there should be no let up in dawn raids. “There should be no difference between how asylum seekers are dealt with in Scotland as opposed to the rest of the UK,” she said.
Tommy Sheridan, the Glasgow Solidarity MSP, called for an amnesty for all asylum seekers.
Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, said she welcomed any measure to reduce the number of dawn raids. But she said Mr Byrne’s claim that faster decisions were also fairer decisions was “rubbish”.

Around 30 protesters yesterday lobbied the Scottish Parliament for a change in asylum laws. Many said a £3000 training package was irrelevant when they could die if they went home.

Alrabae Adam, a teacher from Darfur with two children, now living in Glasgow, said: “I could be deported any time, yet the world knows the situation in Darfur is a genocide.