Call to provide free bus travel for asylum seekers living in Scotland

Labour MSP Paul Sweeney said the move would 'massively improve the lives of asylum seekers'.

Call to provide free bus travel for asylum seekers living in Scotland PeopleImages via iStock
All residents in Scotland under the age of 22 will be eligible for free bus travel from 31 January 2022.

Ministers have been urged to provide free bus travel to asylum seekers living in Scotland.

Labour MSP Paul Sweeney made the call as he said that those seeking asylum are some of the “most destitute” in the country.

And he indicated the £5 a day allowance they are given by the Home Office is not enough to survive on.

The former shadow Scotland Office minister highlighted the issue in a video working alongside The Voices Network.

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“Asylum seekers are some of the most destitute people in our country,” said Sweeney.

“They have come to Scotland for a better life, often fleeing war and persecution.

“They can offer so much, but they are prevented from doing so. As a society, we can and must do so much better.”

Sweeney explained that a scheme to provide asylum seekers would cost “next to nothing” to implement.

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He also pointed to the introduction of free bus travel for under-22s, the elderly and those with disabilities as evidence that such a proposal is possible.

“The way the Home Office treats asylum seekers is disgraceful,” said Sweeney.

“In most instances, they’re given slum-like accommodation from some of the worst private landlords in the country.

“They’re not allowed to work and they’re given just £5 a day to survive.”

Sweeney continued: “I am urging the Scottish Government to provide asylum seekers with free bus travel.

“We know it is possible. There are already schemes in place providing free bus travel to under 22-year-olds, the elderly and people with disabilities.

“It would cost next to nothing to implement, but would massively improve the lives of asylum seekers across Scotland.”

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Vongayi Mufara is originally from Zimbabwe and came to Glasgow in December 2017.

She explained that she is not allowed to work in the UK, and as a single parent, spends most of her time looking after her three children.

“I get £5 as my allowance for the day and it’s really difficult to make it work with £5 in a day,” she said.

“Sometimes I need to go out with the baby and to buy food for the children.

“I am required to attend appointments with my lawyer here and there, just following up on my case, and I usually take the bus and the all-day pass is £4.70.

“Which takes my daily support allowance that I get. So on a day that I have to travel, I have to choose between paying for a bus fare, or to either buy food.”

She added: “Free bus travel would really make a huge difference for me and for all other asylum seekers.”

Simon, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been in the UK for over 15 years and is still seeking asylum.

He said: “I really strongly believe the Scottish Government, they can do something to help us.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland has a long history of welcoming asylum seekers and refugees from all over the world.

“In re-building their lives they help make the country stronger, more compassionate and more successful for everyone.

“More broadly, our National Transport Strategy Delivery Plan outlines actions for reducing inequality and ensuring transport is accessible to all.

“We are working with our delivery partners to launch the new National Concessionary Travel Scheme for free bus travel for young people aged 21 and under, who are resident in Scotland, from January 31st, 2022.

“We haven’t yet seen the full detail or had a chance to consider the projected costs of this proposal. We will respond to Mr Sweeney once we’ve reviewed the detail.”