Asylum seekers denied their full rights to education in Scotland

New research says that Scotland is robbing people in the asylum system of dignity and respect by failing to offer them equal access to further and higher education.

Research – supported by the Poverty Alliance – has uncovered first-hand evidence of the devastating barriers faced by those seeking asylum when it comes to accessing university and college, causing stress, anxiety, disappointment, and frustration.

They point to government funding restrictions that stop them being treated like other students, and which bar them from studying full-time at college like their peers. Those who want to study at university must compete for a very limited number of scholarships – leaving university out of reach for many.

They shared experiences of discrimination – including being pushed into courses they did not want to do.

One of the researchers – all of whom are currently in the asylum system themselves – said that the current system negatively affect is the future of asylum seekers, and blocks their way to developing careers that will benefit them and help fill Scotland’s skills gap.

She said: “In Scotland, it is simply not acceptable that education is not free and accessible for all. It is time to start addressing the barriers faced by asylum seekers and make the further and higher education system in Scotland more inclusive. Asylum seekers should have the choice to study full-time and to go to university so that they can build a brighter future.”

The report shares recommendations to build a more just education system for asylum seekers in Scotland. Key priorities include ensuring equal access to further and higher education through waiving fees for full-time college courses and providing more funding and support for asylum seekers to go to university.

Dr Laura Robertson, Senior Researcher Officer at the Poverty Alliance, said:

“Education is a devolved policy area in Scotland and we have the chance to make changes that provide equality, dignity, and respect to people who have come to our country for a better, safer life. We hope that this research shines a light on the barriers asylum seekers are facing and the crippling effects on their futures.

“The Scottish Government says that they believe that New Scots should be ‘welcomed, supported and integrated into our communities from day one’. To live up to that promise, Ministers should commit to ensuring asylum seekers have equal rights to further and higher education in Scotland.”

The research will be officially launched this morning (Tue 9) in Glasgow, to an audience of leaders and practitioners in the further and higher education sector.

It was funded by the Equality and Human Rights fund as part of the Poverty Alliance’s Rights in Action project, which trains people in local communities in ways to use their human rights as a lever for policy change to tackle poverty and inequality.

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