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Thursday, 9 August, 2001, 18:02 GMT 19:02 UK
Councils to ease refugee plight
Sighthill protest by asylum seekers
Racial tension in Sighthill has heightened
Efforts to help asylum seekers and ease racial tensions in Glasgow have been stepped up.

Deputy Health Minister Gordon Chisholm encouraged more Scottish councils to "play a role" in the dispersal of refugees.

In response, Fife Council has offered 100 houses to asylum seekers and West Dunbartonshire Council has confirmed it has 50 homes available.

At present Glasgow houses all asylum seekers who arrived in Scotland, with the majority staying in the Sighthill area of the city.

The Scottish Executive and Glasgow City Council have been working in partnership to ease racial tensions in the city and announced that an asylum seekers and community mediator would be appointed by next week.

Malcolm Chisholm
Malcolm Chisholm: Urged councils to come forward

An East Renfrewshire spokesman said: "We are certainly not in a position to offer a large number of available homes for asylum seekers to move into.

"We have a small number of council houses but a long waiting list. However, it may be that we can offer other help in terms of educational or interpretation resources."

Fife Council said it was ready to play its part but that its commitment was subject to detailed discussions with the Scottish Asylum Seekers Consortium.

But the authority said it had "not yet identified communities where these would be".

Adult services committee chairwoman, Theresa Gunn, said: "Negotiations with the consortium are ongoing and we are still awaiting details of how many people we might accommodate and when that would be."

There has to be a greater acceptance of asylum seekers throughout Scotland

Grace McGill, immigration specialist

Mr Chisholm welcomed the appointment of a mediator and said it would help authorities listen to refugees' fears.

"This is a really good opportunity for Scotland to lead the UK in welcoming asylum seekers and refugees, in having a positive attitude towards them and an understanding of why they are here," he said.

"We need to make sure that we send out positive messages about asylum-seekers and refugees based on a knowledge of why they are here."

Glasgow City Council announced it would appoint a mediator to improve communication between refugees and the local community.

Complex situation

The post is part of a package of measures which the council hopes will defuse the volatile situation.

Council leader Charlie Gordon said the mediator would be in place by next week.

He said: "Our plan is to appoint a key council official who will listen to what they have to say and who will have instant access to my office and to all the departments involved."

Meanwhile, Edinburgh based lawyer Grace McGill, a specialist in immigration law, said it was a very complex situation and called on the Scottish public to welcome asylum seekers to the country.

"There has to be a greater acceptance of asylum seekers throughout Scotland," she said.

"Unfortunately, a lot of these poor people are stuck in the Home Office system for many months. The asylum seekers basically go where they are told."

See also:

09 Aug 01 | Scotland
Newspaper faces refugee protest
08 Aug 01 | Scotland
Refugee mediator to be appointed
08 Aug 01 | Scotland
Stabbed asylum seeker's anger
08 Aug 01 | Scotland
Ministers in asylum seekers pledge
07 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Refugee dispersal 'will continue'
05 Aug 01 | Scotland
Murder hunt for Turkish man's killer
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