Campaign launched to pressure Westminster candidates to support ‘progressive’ asylum policy


Constituents set to arrange meeting with prospective MPs ahead of 7 May election

A campaign has been launched in Scotland to demand that General Election candidates pledge to support more welcoming policies for asylum seekers.

It is part of a UK-wide initiative from community organising group Citizens UK to persuade prospective MPs to agree to more ‘progressive’ policies on the issue.

Policies that they want candidates to sign up to include ending the indefinite detention of migrants, doubling the intake of UN refugees every year, and bringing the income threshold for spousal visas in line with the living wage to keep more families together.

Campaigners are seeking to arrange meetings with candidates over the coming weeks in order to ask them to sign up to the charter.

According to them, it is important to change the narrative on the issue of immigration which is often spoken about in negative terms.

“All you hear about immigrants is negativity,” says Roza Salih. “But immigrants benefit our country and bring diversity to our society.”

Salih and her family were granted asylum in the UK in 2009 after being forced to leave Iraqi Kurdistan. She is also one of the Glasgow Girls, the group of seven students at Drumchapel High School who made national headlines with their campaign against dawn raids on asylum seekers.

“I think it’s important that we raise awareness of the issue of indefinite detention and also that we let those who are detained know that there are people out there who care about their cause,” she says.

“Not only is indefinite detention inhumane, but it is also costly for the government.

“I don’t think the public knows that their taxes are going to detaining people who are not criminals.

“I’m sure the UK can make more progressive policies for immigrants.”

Currently the UK is the only country in Europe which does not have a time limit on the length of time people can be detained.

Reports have shown that many migrants in Dungavel detention centre in Lanarkshire have been detained for months, and some for over a year. (Click here to read more).

A hunger strike and protests by detainees have also taken place in recent months in protest over conditions and demand a time limit. (Click here to read more).

In March, the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Migration and Asylum published the findings of the first ever parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention. One of the key recommendations was that a time limit of 28 days be introduced.

In Scotland, seats for the 7 May election are most hotly contested between the SNP and the Labour party.

The SNP are in favour of closing down detention centres altogether while the Labour party has pledged to put a time-limit on detention but have not specified a length of time.

In addition to meetings, The Detention Forum network has also set up an online form for constituents to email their MPs asking for an end to indefinite detention. (Click here to see more).

Picture by CommonSpace