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Monday, 29 October, 2001, 19:58 GMT
Concern over asylum seeker plans
Asylum seeker policy
The government is ending the dispersal policy
Asylum seekers' groups north of the border have reacted with disappointment to Home Secretary David Blunkett's proposals to house asylum seekers in reception centres.

The Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) said it was "disappointed" by the government's intended changes to the UK's system for asylum seekers, arguing they could make people "feel like they were in prison".

Glasgow Welcomes Asylum Seekers said the cash being spent on the reception and removal centres should instead be used to create new social housing.

Mr Blunkett announced on Monday that the voucher benefits system and dispersal policy for asylum seekers would be scrapped.

Asylum protest
The proposals have been criticised

He said the dispersal policy would be replaced by induction centres.

Asylum seekers would also be required to regularly attend reporting centres while their application was being processed.

Mr Blunkett said construction would begin immediately on four "accommodation centres" in Britain.

These would hold 3,000 asylum applicants at a time.

The home secretary also said that identification cards containing photograph and fingerprint data would be issued to asylum seekers from January 2002, and would eventually allow holders to get cash electronically.

We are still very concerned that the new system is still based on a philosophy of control and deterrents

Sally Daghlian, SRC

Sally Daghlian of the SRC said: "I think that if asylum seekers are going to be forced to stay in one location, if they are going to be prevented from mixing with the local community, if the reception centres are in isolated areas, then people will feel as though they are in prison even if the doors are not actually locked.

"We are still very concerned that the new system is still based on a philosophy of control and deterrents.

"What we want to see is a humane system for asylum seekers, many of whom who have experienced terrible things.

"We are very worried about the proposals to reduce the time of people's appeal rights. The answer is not to reduce the rights of asylum seekers to the appeal process but to tackle the quality of the decision making in the first place."

Mark Brown of GWAS said the government's changes to the present system were inadequate and violated the human rights of asylum seekers.

'Behind bars'

"We feel this is a retrograde step. I welcome the removal of the asylum voucher system but this should be done with immediate effect rather than being phased out as asylum seekers are placed in accommodation centres," Mr Brown said.

"I don't think you can have a humane asylum policy that puts 7,000 people behind bars which is what is being proposed - 3,000 in reception centres and 4,000 in removal centres.

"Locking people up behind bars is an assault on their human rights. Just because the situation with forced dispersal led to the problems in Sighthill does not mean the alternative is to lock people up.

The government has to look at its priorities and the society we are going to live in

Mark Brown, GWAS

"The alternative is to create social housing in our society for everyone whether the are refugees our not.

"I think the money is there to do that, we are constantly being told this is a matter of cash, yet money has been found very quickly for the military offensive on Afghanistan and for the reception centres here.

"The government has to look at its priorities and the society we are going to live in, if we are going to imprison 7,000 people in this country who are seeking asylum.

"I think the majority of people seeking asylum who arrive in this country have a right to stay here.

"If we live in Scotland and start to say that we don't want economic migrants as a nation that has created millions of economic migrants around the world then we would be in a very difficult situation morally to argue that."

Mark Brown, GWAS
"We feel this is a retrograde step"
Alan Mackay reports
"Refugee support groups have condemned the idea of centres in confined circumstances"
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