MSPs investigate destitution amongst asylum seekers


Ways in which Scottish public services can help asylum seekers facing destitution is to be investigated by MSPs on Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee.

The Committee is asking people to submit their views on what more can be done to tackle the issue. It will be holding a series of evidence sessions which will consider both best practice and where gaps exist in the policies and responses of Scottish public authorities when faced with destitute asylum seekers.

The British Red Cross estimates that 700 people presented as destitute in Glasgow in 2015. It is a problem particularly seen amongst asylum seekers because insecure immigration status can be seen to limit the support provided by public bodies.

The committee is hoping to hear from public and voluntary organisations which have an involvement in helping asylum seekers, in addition to people who are either going through or have been through the asylum process and encountered destitution.

Christina McKelvie MSP, Convener of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee, said:

“We want to hear directly from asylum seekers living in Scotland about their experiences and the hardship they have faced.

“Nobody doubts the great harm that destitution can have on an individual or family. This Committee wants to find out the practical changes that could be made, and what other support can be found so there is a better outlook for asylum seekers who come to this country for sanctuary but end up destitute and vulnerable to exploitation.” 

In particular, the committee is looking to find out how and where destitute asylum seekers find food and shelter; what practical support is most helpful; the barriers faced by destitute asylum seekers and also the barriers faced by public service providers to helping destitute asylum seekers.

The Committee also plans to undertake fact finding visits as part of its inquiry.


Destitution is legally defined in section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. A person is destitute if (a) they do not have adequate accommodation or any means of obtaining it (whether or not essential living needs are met) or (b) have adequate accommodation or the means of obtaining it, but can’t meet other essential living needs.

The call for evidence is available here:

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