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Scottish Tories Urge Home Office To Listen To Them On Migrant Housing

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross in Scottish Parliament (Alamy)

3 min read

Conservative party politicians in Scotland have privately raised concerns with the Home Office that the government is overlooking the impact small boats crossings are having on their communities north of the border.

Scottish Tories in Westminster and Holyrood are frustrated with what they describe as ministers not paying enough attention to how infrastructure in Scotland is being put under strain by the arrival of asylum seekers who reach the UK via the English Channel.

Scottish Tory parliamentarians have raised their concern directly with the department, PoliticsHome understands.

A Tory source in Scotland said there was particular unease that the Home Office is housing asylum seekers in hotels in rural Scotland, north of the country's urban central belt, where Scottish Tories believe the limited local infrastructure is being overstretched.

"Migrants from countries like Albania are being housed into the depths of rural Scotland. Local people are rightfully concerned for their communities, but also for refugees who are losing out on this accommodation via safe and legal routes," the source told PoliticsHome.

"There's growing fear that without swifter action to remove those with illegitimate claims, the Home Office faces an uphill struggle to manage the crisis stretching from Dover to Shetland."

A Home Office source insisted that Home Secretary Suella Braverman was treating Scotland fairly. "Scotland takes far fewer asylum seekers for their population compared with England, so we’d ask all nations to take their fair share," they told PoliticsHome.

While Tories in Scotland support the governnment's plans for tackling Channel crossings, contained within the Illegal Migration Bill, they say the impact they are having on Scotland in particular has been underappreciated by ministers, with much of the focus on England. 

Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister in the Home Office, recently angered Scottish National Party MPs when he said the devolved government in Holyrood "does not house" asylum seekers and that if the SNP "cared" about the welbeing of people who arrive in small boats, they would "welcome asylum seekers into their own part of the UK, but they do not.”

The Illegal Migration Bill, which is central to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's pledge to stop small boats reaching the south coast of England, last week became law after several rounds of 'ping pong' between MPs and peers over a series of amendments to the contentious legislation.

The Bill gives the government the power to detain people who arrive in small boats without bail or judicial review within the first 28 days of being held, until they can be removed.

New arrivals who reach the UK illegally will be removed to a ‘third’ country like Albania, and then banned from ever returning or claiming citizenship in the UK. A plan to remove arrivals to Rwanda has been held up after the Court of Appeal deemed it to be unlawful. 

Sunak and Braverman hope that the threat of deportation, plus the decision to use barges to house asylum seekers who are awaiting a decision on whether they can stay in the UK, will help deter people from attempting the journey from mainland Europe to the south coast. 

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