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Time for ‘political leadership’ from Scottish government on refugee destitution, report says

THE Scottish government must show “political leadership” and ramp up support to fight refugee destitution, according to a new report.

Thousands of refugees in recent years have been made destitute and open to exploitation after benefit changes  — under Tony Blair’s government — left them with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) if their asylum claim was rejected.

Campaigners say that the situation has been compounded by Tory “destitution by design” and “hostile environment” policies.

Charities, including the Scottish Refugee Council, set up the Fair Way scheme to fill gaps in advice and cash support for people with NRPF, helping 1,205 people in its first year, according to a report by researchers at Heriott-Watt University.

The study, commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, urges the Scottish government to show “clearer political leadership” and set out clear plans to mitigate NRPF, as promised in out the SNP/Green coalition agreement.

Beth Watts-Cobbe, report author and senior research fellow at I-Sphere, Heriot-Watt University, said that her study showed what could be achieved despite “tight council budgets and high housing demand.”

Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Deborah Hay said: “Scaling up Fair Way is now critical given rising demand for help, but mitigation programmes like this shouldn’t be necessary.

“The government must commit to an urgent change of course and end destitution by design.”

A Scottish government spokesperson said: “We will continue to engage with local authorities and the third sector as we work to do what we can within devolved powers to support people at risk of or experiencing homelessness and destitution due to NRPF.”

The Home Office said: “We encourage individuals to make their onward plans as soon as possible after receiving their decision, whether that is leaving Britain following a refusal, or taking steps to integrate in Britain following a grant.”

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