Current Situation

Asylum seekers 

Glasgow is currently home to the largest number of dispersed asylum seekers in the UK.  Over one third (34%) of the asylum seekers who are sent to Glasgow are nationals of just four countries: Iran, Pakistan, Congo and Somalia. The largest national groups of asylum seekers are Turkish (including Turkish Kurds), Somali, Iranian and Pakistan.

Cowlairs is the area of Glasgow with the highest percentage of resident asylum seekers. In 2008, around 10% of the city's asylum seekers live in the Petershill area of the city. Areas like Carwadric, Roystonhill, Scotstoun, Cardonald, Pollokshaws each house around 5% of the city's asylum seeking population. Glasgow's Sighthill Estate is home to the majority of dispersed asylum seekers and has been the sight of racial tensions over the years.

In August 2001 a Kurdish asylum seeker was murdered in the Sighthill area of the city and this marked a turning point in the coverage of asylum in the Scottish media, and there has been less focus on tensions within communities since 2001.

The murder led to asylum seekers protesting in the city centre about their treatment in Sighthill, and local residents either joining the asylum seeking community to display solidarity or counter-protesting about what they perceived to be preferential treatment towards refugees.

Since 2003 it has been very difficult to claim asylum in Scotland. Although the Home Office has Immigration Service offices in Glasgow, they will only register asylum claims for families, unaccompanied minors or for people with 'special needs'. As a result of this policy, asylum seekers who arrive in Glasgow are unlikely to settle in the city (Scottish Refugee Council 2003).

Key organisations

Within the dispersal communities, networks of agencies and individuals have developed to support the settlement and integration of asylum seekers and refugees. There are currently ten of these networks in Glasgow, each was established on an ad hoc basis and developed along different lines to provide broadly similar services within local communities. Many of these networks are funded from Social Inclusion Partnership funds and they provide services such as 'drop ins', English language tutoring and often organise cross-cultural events like carnivals. However, accounts relating to the initial reception and resettlement of asylum seekers indicate that due to their ad hoc and reactive basis, appropriate statutory services were not always in place at the start of the dispersal programme.

Within the dispersal communities, networks of agencies and individuals have developed to support the settlement and integration of asylum seekers and refugees. There are currently ten of these networks in Glasgow, each was established on an ad hoc basis and developed along different lines to provide broadly similar services within local communities. Many of these networks are funded from Social Inclusion Partnership funds and they provide services such as 'drop ins', English language tutoring and often organise cross-cultural events like carnivals.

The Scottish Refugee Council has a contract with United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) Support -former NASS-  to provide advice and support to asylum seekers dispersed to Glasgow on a 'one stop service' basis, meaning asylum seekers can find support upon their arrival and throughout the processing of their claim in the one location.

A team from the Refugee Integration and Employment Service (RIES), which provides housing, employment, education and welfare advice to asylum seekers and refugees, is in charge of assigning caseworkers to helps them settle into life in Scotland.

Removal centre

At 25 December 2004, 60 asylum-seeking detainees were being held in Scotland's only removal centre for asylum seekers and other immigration detainees, Dungavel.

Until 2005, Dungavel had large facilities to house families in detention. Following an official enquiry by the Home Office (Home Office website, 2005) the number of families detained at the centre and their length of stay during 2003 and 2004 were published. There were 105 families, with a combined total of 106 children detained, and the average length of stay was twelve days. Since then, the Centre's family unit has been scaled down and most of the families are transferred to the nearby facilities of Yarl's Wood after a period of 72 hours at Dungavel. Volunteers regularly visit people held in Dungavel through a Detainee Visitors Scheme run by the Scottish Refugee Council.

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Last Updated: 06/10/09

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