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CHISHOLM URGES 'INTEGRATION NOT CONFRONTATION' ON ASYLUM ISSUE

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Malcolm Chisholm, deputy minister for health with responsibility for co-ordinating asylum issues in the executive, ...
Malcolm Chisholm, deputy minister for health with responsibility for co-ordinating asylum issues in the executive, has met the Scottish Asylum Seekers Consortium to be briefed on how authorities are reacting to the appalling murder of an asylum seeker in Glasgow earlier this week.

The minister used the meeting to condemn the 'small minority who have brought shame on Scotland' by harassing asylum seekers, and called on other Scottish local authorities to explore the role they could play in welcoming asylum seekers.

Speaking after the meeting in Glasgow yesterday, Mr Chisholm said:

'This meeting has given me a first-hand opportunity to hear about the situation here in Glasgow and to discuss ways in which improvements can be made for asylum seekers and refugees in the city.

'The first thing, however, is to condemn unreservedly the small minority who have harassed and attacked asylum seekers over recent months. This minority brings shame on Scotland and the first priority must and will be to protect asylum seekers and refugees. Asylum seekers came here fleeing desperate circumstances in their own countries. They should not have to carry that fear with them around the streets of Glasgow or any other town in Scotland.

'I welcome the commitment of Glasgow City Council, Strathclyde Police and the local agencies to providing services and protection for asylum seekers in Glasgow.

'I have discussed today what more needs to be done, and shall be having further discussions with other ministers later this week. I also hope that more Scottish local authorities will play a role in offering a welcome and a home to asylum seekers and refugees.

'We want to learn all we can from the events of this week and how that can be fed back into the UK government's policy for the dispersal of asylum seekers. We had already planned to research the effect of the new arrangements on asylum seekers and local services such as health, education, housing, policing and social work. We will be pushing forward with that over the coming weeks and months.

'We must also look to the longer-term. A sizeable number of asylum seekers will be granted leave to become permanent citizens of our country. I am clear that we need to co-ordinate the integration of these refugees in Scotland, and I expect to be able to announce details shortly of a new Integration Forum to oversee the Scottish dimension of this issue

'We must also continue to tackle the pressures and issues that create and magnify divisions in our society - poverty, ill-health, poor housing, lack of education and training opportunities. These are the real enemies of all those living in our poorer communities.

'Tackling the injustices and inequalities in our society is at the heart of all our executive policies for all our people - irrespective of their colour, creed or religion. That is a message every single one of my executive colleagues will echo - to create a compassionate country with opportunities for all.'

* see LGCnetfor Cosla statement

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