Actor Brian Cox has joined forces with the Scottish Refugee Council and Unison to call for a fair new plan for refugees in an open letter to party leaders today.
The letter, published in the week MPs are expected to vote on the government’s proposed legislation on the Rwanda scheme, marks the launch of a new campaign, Fair Begins Here, from campaign coalition Together With Refugees.
New polling, commissioned by Together With Refugees, reveals that fewer than one in five (18%) in Scotland think the UK government’s approach to the asylum system is working well.
Fewer than one in five (15%) Scots think the government’s approach to the asylum system will work well in the future.
Cox said: “The UK’s asylum system is in a shambles – not least with the government’s continued attempts to push through the awful scheme to send people to Rwanda.
“We need a total rethink. Political leaders must create a system that is not just properly managed but is fair and has compassion at its heart.”
The Rwanda scheme has led to a backlog of more than 165,000 people waiting for a decision on their asylum claim and more than 55,000 people still living temporarily in hotel rooms.
Over three-quarters of Scots report wanting an approach to the asylum system that is well managed, fair and compassionate, with the campaign calling for a “fair new plan for refugees that works for everyone.”
The letter states: “Britain’s refugee system has become ever-more uncaring, chaotic and costly…These policies aren’t working for refugees and they aren’t working for local communities. That’s why we have come together to say we’ve had enough.
“Enough of the division. Enough of the short-term thinking. Enough of the wasted human potential. And it’s why we now call for something better.”
Sabir Zazai, chair of Together With Refugees and CEO of Scottish Refugee Council said: “I know what it’s like to flee in terror. I know what it’s like to try and make your way to safety by whatever means possible. And I know what it’s like to try and rebuild your life in a completely strange land.
“Now, in my work with refugees, I see a more compassionate Britain, where a rich tapestry of people from across the country go out of their way to show their support. They open their homes, they give huge amounts of their time, they speak out, they donate.
“And as refugees we have so much to offer our new adopted home, given the chance. This country needs a totally new start for our asylum system, one that we can all be proud of and that can work for everyone, those seeking sanctuary and those offering protection.”
Signatory general Lord Richard Dannatt, former head of the British Army, said: “It is clear that the current system for refugees in the UK is in a terrible mess. The dogged pursuit of the unpopular plan to send people seeking protection to Rwanda is astonishing.
“The failure to fully support Afghans fleeing the Taliban is shameful. This country needs a proper plan – one that is fair for refugees and works for communities across Britain. This letter to party leaders has come at a critical time and I urge them to take serious note. This chaos cannot be allowed to continue.”
TV presenter and former football player, Gary Lineker, who has hosted refugees in his home, said: “Refugees have escaped unthinkable horrors in their home countries. We need a new system that reflects the will of the British people who have opened their homes, donated and volunteered in their local communities.
“That’s why I’m backing this new campaign – because fair really can begin here.”
Dr Latifa Patel, BMA representative body chair, said: “As doctors our first concern is to care for patients irrespective of their arrival circumstances or origins. Evidence tells us that this Government’s shambolic approach to, and management of refugees and asylum seekers is adversely affecting their physical and mental health.
“Furthermore, our NHS is at breaking point, and we need all the help we can get – adding unnecessary barriers that hinder healthcare professionals and their families, who are refugees, from contributing to our health service is counterproductive and lacks a strategy.
“We need a new plan of action here – without a drastic overhaul of the entire asylum system, we run the risk of further harming both the physical and mental health of refugees and the UK’s international reputation.”
TV chef and personality, Big Zuu, lived in refugee accommodation as a baby as his mother had fled Sierra Leone when she was pregnant with him and sought asylum in the UK.
He said: “I know what it’s like to be a child in the asylum system in the UK. Me and my mum had some good support when we were first here, but it wasn’t easy. And I know it’s even tougher today, being a refugee in this country now is almost impossible.
“But it doesn’t have to be like this. Being part of this campaign is so important to me and many of the people I grew up with. We experienced the reality, and we know politicians can do better.”
The Fair Begins Here campaign is calling for a fair new plan for refugees with:
- Protection for people fleeing war and persecution by upholding the UK’s commitment under international law to the right to claim asylum and by scrapping the Rwanda scheme.
- A proper strategy for welcoming refugees by ensuring fair, rapid decisions on their application for asylum, and the chance to rebuild their lives through settling in a community, being allowed to work and the chance to learn English.
- Stronger global cooperation to tackle the root causes that force people to flee their homes and provides positive solutions when they do, including through safe routes to refugee protection.
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