Thursday, 1 November 2007

More adventures at SNP conference...

Thanks to a reminder in the above blog, I have just realised the significance of today. It could have been election day! Given that I am sat on the sofa, in big comfy slippers suffering from a cold, I'm really glad that today is not polling day :o) And unlike Marco (see link) I AM looking forward to Eastenders and the big wedding episode. I don't have many vices but soaps are one of them (does it only count as one vice if I group them all together...?).

Anyway, in my previous blog, I promised to post more on events at conference. Don't say I don't deliver!

One of the most interesting events for me at conference was the fringe meeting organised by Save the Children and Scottish Refugee Council on issues faced by asylum seeking children. One of those who spoke to SNP delegates was a teenage boy who told us about being detained in Dungavel with his mum and brother, and how terrible an experience it was. It's such a truly awful thing to do to people who have committed no crime - especially children.

We had a surprise additional guest to the meeting - the First Minister himself. Alex said the SNP was a government that would not only make popular decisions, but also the less popular decisions if they are the right thing to do. He was referring primarily to the Government's decision to give the children of asylum seekers the same access to Higher Education as other children in Scotland. Our new Government's compassionate and positive attitude to people seeking asylum in our country has not gone unnoticed. People do feel more welcome and positive about Scotland as a result - and I am particularly proud that the SNP Government is making a positive difference to the lives of this group of people. They deserve it after all they have been through - fleeing their countries in fear, years of uncertainty as their asylum claims are processes, a hostile media and often hostile attitudes of local communities too.

The meeting also heard from a woman who had sought asylum from persecution in Algeria. Her claim has taken 6 and a half years to process, and has only been resolved now because of the special measures that have been put in place to clear the backlog of cases. At the end of her very moving story, she imparted the good news that her case has been successful and she can now fully participate in life in Scotland. She is a remarkable lady and a great addition to Scotland too.

We still have a long way to go in changing attitudes towards asylum seekers in Scotland, but we are at least moving in the right direction.


Mountjoy said...

People who are persecuted in their own country are treated abysmally in the UK, and not even allowed to work. I agree that the asylum system needs to be sorted out so that people are processed much more quickly.

I presume this is not a devolved matter. At least if it was in the hands of the Scottish Government it would be run a lot more competently than it is from London.

Julie Hepburn said...

You're right - asylum and immigration policy is still reserved to Westminster.

The Scottish Government supports giving asylum seekers the right to work while their claims are being processed, but there is nothing they can do about it at the moment other than lobby the Westminster Government.