May
22
2017
Author
The Scottish Parliament
Hidden Lives - New Beginnings: Destitution, asylum and insecure immigration status in Scotland

According to the UNHRC, the UN Refugee Agency, we are now witnessing the highest
levels of displacement of people on record. In 2015, 34,000 people are forcibly displaced
every day as a result of conflict or persecution. An unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access
to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.
Fifty-three per cent of refugees come from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, sparking a crisis
as countries struggled to cope with the influx.

Scotland has made a significant contribution to the Syrian Vulnerable Persons
Resettlement Programme and welcomed over a hundred unaccompanied children.
It is time to evaluate how we approach the issue of destitution for people who are seeking asylum and aren’t part of the resettlement programmes, or who have insecure immigration status and, due to a change in their circumstances, find they have No Recourse to Public Funds.

For many people going back to their home country is not a choice, being destitute is
preferable to being imprisoned, tortured or killed. We spoke to people who are living with the effects of trauma and through their courage heard their real-life stories of struggle and pain. Some had experienced abuse, torture and exploitation and fled to find protection in the UK only to become destitute and vulnerable again.

Destitution is harmful. It further traumatises people, makes them more vulnerable to
exploitation and increases health issues – this is not acceptable in a modern, welcoming
Scotland.

Our report won’t change what has happened to them, but we can address how they are
treated in Scotland going forward - by refocusing what is in our control - our
compassionate response to destitution. We know we can’t solve destitution outright, but we can make progress minimising its effects to give people the best chance of finding their new life, whether this is in Scotland or back in their home country when they're able.