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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 September, 2003, 07:40 GMT 08:40 UK
Asylum seekers 'must head south'
Asylum seekers
Asylum seekers have been told to travel to England
Asylum seekers are being stripped of the right to register their claims in Scotland, according to the Scottish Refugee Council.

The Home Office said its office in Glasgow would no longer process cases.

People arriving at a Scottish port or airport could still claim asylum from an immigration official, it said.

However, the Scottish Refugee Council said people were instead being told to travel to England to register their claim.

The move has been condemned by the organisation, which handles about 25 new cases each week.

The council's Julian Simpson said: "In effect it is going to mean that the right to claim asylum in Scotland is going to be taken away.

It is a bureaucratic nightmare for people who are coming to this country fleeing persecution and trying to claim asylum
Julian Simpson
Scottish Refugee Council
"In theory you can claim asylum at a port, but what we have been seeing is that people who try to do that are referred to the offices in Glasgow.

"The offices in Glasgow are saying that they are not going to process any claims.

"In effect, as far as we are concerned, people cannot claim asylum in Scotland at the moment."

Mr Simpson said people were being told that they would have to travel to Liverpool, Solihull or Croydon to register their claims, but were not being given any money to pay for the journey.

He said the council found it "quite shocking" that it had not been consulted on the change.

"It is a bureaucratic nightmare for people who are coming to this country fleeing persecution and trying to claim asylum," he said.

Key facts about the people coming to the UK

The Home Office argued that asylum seekers could still contact an immigration official at their point of entry to Scotland.

It described the step as "administrative" change.

Scottish National Party leader John Swinney said he would be seeking clarification on the new arrangements.

"It is quite clear that practical support for people seeking asylum in Scotland has been reduced and that is something that concerns me enormously," he said.

Alan MacDonald, the convener of the Church of Scotland's Church and Nation committee, said he would be concerned at anything which made it more difficult for people fleeing persecution to claim asylum.

Julian Simpson, Scottish Refugee Council
"The officials in Glasgow are saying they cannot process claims"

The BBC's Reevel Alderson
"The SRC usually deals with 25 asylum cases a week."

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