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New poll shows Scots back faster asylum process for 3,000 Afghans

Afghan refugee families arrive at the Torrejón de Ardoz military base in Madrid in August 2021. Diego Radames/SOPA Images/Shutterstock
Afghan refugee families arrive at the Torrejón de Ardoz military base in Madrid in August 2021. Diego Radames/SOPA Images/Shutterstock

Scots back calls for the UK Government to fast-track asylum claims from more than 3,000 Afghans, according to a new survey.

Polling carried out for the British Red Cross shows more people in Scotland agreed than disagreed with the charity’s demand for an accelerated process for Afghans seeking asylum.

The study by Opinium found 38% of Scots believed that Afghans already seeking asylum in the UK should have their applications fast-tracked, compared to 26% who disagreed.

The rest either said they did not know, or had no opinion.

The polling also showed that 49% of Scots said Afghans already seeking asylum in the UK should be able to bring their family to join them, as opposed to just 24% who disagreed.

Refugees from Afghanistan arrive in the US

Taliban takeover

It was carried out in the wake of the takeover by the Taliban last month, and was part of a wider study involving 4,000 people across the UK, with 337 saying they were living in Scotland.

The findings were welcomed by a Highlands support group as evidence a national integration scheme is working.

The first families from Afghanistan have already arrived in Aberdeenshire, and it was confirmed on Wednesday that Moray Council would provide refuge to about 20 people seeking safety from Afghanistan.

Aberdeen City Council is also planning to take in refugees, as is Dundee City Council, Perth and Kinross Council, and Angus Council.

In Fife, more than £10,000 has been pledged in an online donations page to help Afghans settle in the area, while Fife Voluntary Action has said it has received “thousands of bags of donations”.

Marie Hayes. Scotland director at the British Red Cross

The findings emerged as Labour MSP Pauline McNeill prepares to ask for an update from Scottish ministers on refugee resettlement plans in Holyrood on Thursday.

British Red Cross staff and volunteers are currently welcoming Afghans to the UK by providing emotional support and basic items such as warm clothing and hygiene kits, including soap, nappies and toothbrushes.

People are fleeing their homes

The latest statistics from the Home Office show that 3,213 Afghans in the UK were awaiting an initial decision on their asylum claim at the end of June, with almost three-quarters having had to wait for more than six months.

Marie Hayes, Scotland director at the British Red Cross, said: “People fleeing their homes have experienced the worst things in life, from war to persecution.

“With more people coming to the UK to seek safety, we must be ready to provide support now.

“That starts with fast-tracking the claims of more than 3,000 Afghan nationals who are already here, and have been waiting for months, if not years, for a decision.”

With more people coming to the UK to seek safety, we must be ready to provide support now. That starts with fast-tracking the claims of more than 3,000 Afghan nationals who are already here, and have been waiting for months, if not years, for a decision.”

She added: “As the largest provider of support to refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK, the British Red Cross is ready to work with the Scottish Government and other partners to welcome Afghan refugees.”

The poll findings did not surprise John Cairns, a spokesman for HiMRA (Highland Migrant and Refugee Action), a Birchwood Highland project which aims to support migrants and refugees, and strengthen community integration and social inclusion.

“I think it’s an example that the Scottish Government’s New Scots Integration Strategy is working, and that has been quite well thought out,” he said.

“And, as people say, Scotland has got a very good and welcoming reputation.”

Donations for Afghan refugees in Perth

Mr Cairns pointed to the volunteer-run donation distribution group called “The Highlands Support Refugees”, which has 3,800 members on Facebook.

“I think that is a really good example of how much people in the Highlands support people who are in need, let’s face it, and who have been through really difficult times,” he said.

‘Good example’

He also praised the work of the local authority, which plays a lead role in resettling refugees.

“Highland Council are being as supportive as they can. They have had buses down to pick people up. They’ve been getting properties ready for them, and they’ve been trying to set up bank accounts so that they can work with the DWP.

“Highland Council, I have to say, has put an awful lot of work into it, and kudos to them for that.”

Aid agencies across Fife have been inundated with donations for refugees fleeing the crisis in Afghanistan.

A spokesman for council body COSLA said: “Scottish local authorities are committed to doing all that they can to support the humanitarian efforts in relation to Afghanistan and councils are currently working hard to identify properties to accommodate as many people as they can.

“To date, over 20 councils have identified properties for use and over 50 families have been accommodated with approximately 60 more properties awaiting the arrival of families over the coming weeks.”

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