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Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 16:09 GMT
New help body for refugees
Refugee family
Refugees will be given more help to integrate
Refugees settling in Scotland have been promised more help to integrate with local communities.

The Scottish Executive has confirmed that a new body will be appointed to oversee and co-ordinate the housing, education and medical efforts of refugee services.

Ministers said the main aim of the Scottish Refugee Integration Forum would be to ensure that asylum seekers who achieve refugee status are integrated into local communities "as swiftly and efficiently as possible".

Social Justice Minister Jackie Baillie will chair the new forum, which includes representatives from the Scottish Refugee Council and the Commission for Racial Equality.

Jackie Baillie
Jackie Baillie: "Work in partnership"
Ms Baillie said: "This new forum will be used to drive executive policy on the devolved matters which affect people who have been granted asylum, such as housing, health, and education.

"The forum will help to develop action plans, based on best practice, to bring together refugees and existing communities, with the provision of more accessible and co-ordinated services.

"Communication is the key to the forums success and it is critical that we work in partnership with local authorities, voluntary organisations and the communities themselves to achieve co-ordinated responses.

"This will help us build up a true picture of what is happening on the ground, where the strengths and weaknesses are, and how to develop a sustainable strategy for the future."

'Bogus asylum seekers'

The minister will be joined on the forum by Sally Daghlian, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, Professor David Walsh, chair of the National Refugee Forum and a representative from the Commission for Racial Equality.

Other people with expertise in issues relating to refugees will also be invited to participate.

The Scottish Refugee Integration Forum will hold its first meeting by the end of the year.

The proposed make-up of the group, however, was criticised by Robina Qureshi from the refugee help group Positive Action in Housing.

Robina Qureshi
Robina Qureshi: Representation call
She told BBC Scotland's Holyrood Live programme: "The integration forum will only work when asylum seekers and the groups that are made up of asylum seekers are represented on the forum."

Ms Qureshi said other groups, which were "set up in response to the problems that asylum seekers face" should also be included.

Later, during a debate in the parliament, the Scottish Conservatives said that Britain should not become a "soft touch for bogus asylum seekers".

The party's justice spokesman, Lord James Douglas Hamilton, said: "The way in which we seek to proceed is by establishing a civilised, humane and effective system, whose hallmark is fairness and justice to all concerned."

See also:

31 Oct 01 | Scotland
New help body for refugees
29 Oct 01 | Scotland
Concern over asylum seeker plans
26 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Immigrants 'to take citizen classes'
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