Scottish Refugee Council challenges landlords to do better for refugees

Council issues guide to landlords and housing groups to ensure refugees’ right to quality accommodation is respected

THE right to quality housing is "fundamental" in allowing new refugees in Scotland to reach their "full potential", according to the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) in a new housing guide.

The report was commissioned following what it suggests is a growing need for good provision in housing for refugees coming to Scotland and concerns about the quality of housing provided. 

SRC has also said that its research suggests that over 60 per cent of refugees in Scotland have an English competency below SQA Access 3, otherwise known as elementary level.

"A safe, secure home is so fundamentally important for all of us but especially so for people who are new to Scotland." Jamie Stewart

Jamie Stewart, housing development officer at Scottish Refugee Council, said: "For many people in the asylum system, the accommodation they receive on arrival in Scotland is the first safe place of shelter they have known in years.

"A safe, secure home is so fundamentally important for all of us but especially so for people who are new to Scotland and trying to navigate their way through complicated systems and may be recovering from torture, trauma and violent human rights abuses.

"Our new guide for housing professionals will help practitioners continue to deliver their important, life-changing work in supporting refugees to integrate into Scottish society and reach their potential as new Scots.

'Guide to Integrate Asylum Seekers and Refugees' was published by the SRC in collaboration with the Scottish Government and the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland (CIH), with aims to ensure that all refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland are guaranteed good housing.

Read more - Evictions, bullying, racism: The horror faced by Scotland's asylum seekers revealed

It gives information about refugees’ and asylum seekers’ rights and entitlements in relation to housing, homelessness and welfare benefits but additionally advises on good practice aimed at reducing homelessness among refugees and increasing their housing options.

Moreover, asylum seekers are not eligible for homelessness accommodation by a local authority while in the asylum process but they can submit a housing application to a housing association. However, they may not be allocated accommodation until they have leave to remain from the UK Home Office.

In Scotland, the Home Office currently contracts private company Serco to arrange accommodation for asylum seekers and Serco in turn, sub-contracts its housing obligations to a private letting agent called Orchard and Shipman.

The report said on this issue: "There have been many reported problems with the quality and standards of asylum accommodation and asylum seekers are often unaware of their rights to repairs and reasonable treatment."

The Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement Programme was expanded in 2015 to resettle 20,000 refugees between 2015 and 2020.  

SRC said the guide will help all housing professionals to be fully aware of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and see "refugees’ strengths and the important contribution refugees can make to communities". 

Its guide also comes after the extension last year of the Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement Programme, which began in 2014 but was expanded in 2015 to resettle 20,000 refugees between 2015 and 2020.  

Last year, the Scottish Government agreed to accept 2,000 of these refugees, amounting to 10 per cent of the total, but in May this year it was reported that according to Home Office figures Scotland had taken a third of the UK's allotment already.

The minister for local government and housing, Kevin Stewart, said: "Scotland is proud to welcome refugees as we recognise the significant contribution they make to diversifying and strengthening our communities.

"Giving refugees access to good quality housing is a crucial part of the resettlement process and the publication of this guide will support the integration of refugees across Scotland.

"Scotland has always been proud to welcome refugees and, with the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme, this guide will be a useful tool for housing practitioners across Scotland.

"It will help the housing sector know and understand the rights of refugees, and ensure that refugees have a safe and secure place to stay."

"It will help the housing sector know and understand the rights of refugees, and ensure that refugees have a safe and secure place to stay." Kevin Stewart

Marian Reid, deputy director at CIH Scotland, on the housing group’s website, added: "Moving to a new home can be stressful at the best of times. When people arrive in our country through difficult and dangerous circumstances, front line housing staff play a key role in helping them access the support and services they need.

"This timely guidance will assist them in doing their best for the asylum seekers and refugees they are working with."

Picture courtesy of SRC

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