Edinburgh Council registers anger over asylum seeker detention centre

Edinburgh Council is threatening to withdraw
from the national asylum seeker dispersal system, claiming it has
been ignored by the Home Office over plans to set up a detention
centre in the city.

According to the council, the immigration and
nationality directorate of the Home Office released plans to the
media to turn the city’s former air force base, RAF Turnhouse, into
a detention centre for 750 asylum seekers before consulting the
local authority.

Edinburgh’s director of housing Mark Turley
said the announcement in the media “came as some surprise”.

The council has written to the Home Office
informing it that it has suspended formal talks with the National
Asylum Support Service about participation in the national
dispersal scheme until it has been consulted by the Home Office on
the plans for the detention centre.

Leader of the council Donald Anderson said:
“We have been keen to discharge our responsibility fully in terms
of asylum seekers. In order to do that we need a degree of
partnership between ourselves and the Home Office. The way this has
come out has got that off to a bad start.”

Meanwhile, the proposal to open the Edinburgh
centre and three others across the UK has come under fire from
Positive Action in Housing (PAIH), a Scotland-based group
campaigning for safe housing for ethnic minority groups. Director
Robina Qureshi said: “Government is steamrolling ahead with its
proposals to build accommodation centres without any consultation
or discussion with local authorities. This isn’t going to help
refugees who are coming here to claim sanctuary, not to become the
victims of an argument between councils and the government.”

According to PAIH, more than 70 per cent of
asylum seekers placed in Glasgow had won positive decisions and
were likely to stay in the city, a situation likely to be
replicated elsewhere. Qureshi continued: “The idea that they can
build a sense of community for asylum seekers by cutting them off
from society in an outlying army base is plainly ridiculous.

“You are talking about vulnerable people who
need to start the process of integration the moment they arrive
here otherwise past experience shows the risk of large numbers of
people being effectively incarcerated and institutionalised without
any outside support whatsoever.”

The Home Office said it had not received
Edinburgh Council’s letter and refused to comment.

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