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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 November 2005, 10:10 GMT
Call for asylum employment rights
Fresh Talent poster
A Fresh Talent promotion at Glasgow airport
Asylum seekers living in Scotland should be allowed to work, according to a group of MSPs.

Holyrood's external relations committee has urged the Scottish Executive to lobby the Home Office over rules which currently prevent employment.

The committee also criticised the executive's Fresh Talent initiative for failing to offer more permanent visas for foreign students.

The Home Office and the executive both defended the current arrangements.

Committee convener Linda Fabiani said: "Research conducted by the executive found that although 21% of the refugees and asylum seekers who live in Scotland are university educated, only 7% of them are able to work.

Work visa

"Our committee recommends that the executive, in its discussions with the Home Office, make the case for employment opportunities for those asylum seekers awaiting a decision."

An executive spokesman said it had committed 1.5m for the integration of refugees and asylum seekers.

"This includes support for organisations and initiatives, like the Bridges Project, which provide training advice and work experience for refugees and asylum seekers," he added.

The committee's report also criticised the short-term nature of the Fresh Talent initiative.

'Short-term solution'

It said the policy lacked a way of turning two-year visas, offered to foreign students studying in Scotland, into something more permanent.

But the executive said the two-year scheme gave international students the opportunity to convince employers of their potential before employers had to consider going through the work permit process.

MSPs also raised concerns about the employment of foreign workers through gang master agencies, although they acknowledged that this was an area reserved to Westminster.

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