27 October 2006
1100 ASYLUM FAMILIES FACE BOOT
Immigration shake-up to speed up deportations
The Daily Record
By Magnus Gardham
THE Home Office moved to speed up asylum cases after it emerged yesterday 1100 families are facing forced deportation from Scotland.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne announced changes to the system during a visit to Scotland yesterday.
He faced protests at the Scottish parliament and in Glasgow after he refused to rule out further dawn raids to remove failed asylum seekers.
But he insisted the shake-up would make dawn raids a “last resort” and encouraged failed asylum seekers to leave Scotland voluntarily.
The Government's Immigration and Nationality Directorate, who handle asylum cases, said they were dealing with 1500 families in Scotland.
Of those, 1100 – or about 3300 individuals – had been refused permission to stay.
Many have been in Scotland for months or years, as they do not have passports or other documents allowing the IND to put them on a plane home.
At present, few failed asylum seekers agree to leave Scotland voluntarily. In September, a scheme persuaded 140 people to leave before being seized by officials – but only one turned up at the airport.
Byrne confirmed that asylum cases in Scotland would now be handled by two teams of officials in Glasgow, as revealed in the Record on Wednesday.
Asylum families will be assigned a dedicated official, in the hope that a more sensitive approach will encourage them to leave if are not allowed to stay.
They will also be offered a 3000 package of help to settle back into their original country.
And the IND will talk to court officials in a bid to speed up the often drawn-out legal process of appeals. Byrne said the changes were the result of lobbying by First Minister Jack McConnell, who has “blazed a trail” on the issue.
But he said Scotland would not become a “soft touch” for bogus asylum seekers.
He said: “We will bend over backwards to encourage people to go home voluntarily.
“If you ask immigration officers what is the most difficult part of their job, they will tell you that removing families is by far and away the hardest thing they have to do.
“It's frankly gut-wrenching work and I commend them for the professional way they go about it.”
Last night, the Home Office shake-up was dismissed as a “sham” by SNP justice spokesman Kenny MacAskill.
He said: “It's time to hand over the powers of immigration to Holyrood so we can ensure Scotland has a stable population and talented migrants are treated with respect.”