A major “myth-busting” campaign is needed to tackle misinformation about migrants and highlight the economic and social benefits they bring to Scotland, according to a Scottish Parliament report into migration and trafficking which is published today.
Commenting on the report which also highlights the extent of human trafficking in Scotland, Equal Opportunities Committee Convener Margaret Mitchell MSP said:
“The Equal Opportunities Committee inquiry found migrants’ demands on public services are not as high as many people believe. Evidence also suggests that migrants pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits or public services and that, contrary to public perception, they predominantly live in private rented homes rather than social housing.
“The inquiry revealed a lack of awareness about migrants and their reasons for coming to Scotland, and that this has helped to fuel negativity towards them. For example, the committee heard that terms such as “bogus asylum seeker” and “illegal immigrant” are often used as generic terms by the public to describe all migrants - who may have come here for a variety of reasons, including to work or study. The committee heard how migrants contribute hugely to our economy, however this is generally either not known or acknowledged.”
The committee also called for more awareness-raising about the abhorrent practice of human trafficking which exists in Scotland in a number of forms – notably sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic servitude. The 159-page report calls for the Scottish Government to look at ways to help more people identify victims and assist them, especially as possible victims could increase when the Commonwealth Games are staged in Glasgow in 2014.
The committee has also called on the Scottish Government and the Crown Office to look at why there have been no prosecutions for trafficking in Scotland, given that there have been well over 100 prosecutions south of the border.
As part of its inquiry the committee spoke to 25 migrants about their experiences of life in Scotland at an informal meeting in Glasgow. It also held 11 meetings with more than 50 witnesses at Holyrood.
Among the committee’s key recommendations are:
- The committee called for the Scottish and UK Governments to do more to work together to tackle trafficking and to make it tougher for traffickers to operate in Scotland. It has also called for the Scottish Government to have a role in developing migration policy given the impact on devolved responsibilities such as healthcare, education, housing and justice. The committee recommended that this could be done by establishing protocols.
- Calls for improved cross-border co-operation and collaboration to produce more accurate data on migration to help better inform policy decisions and improve planning and delivery of public services; for the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to provide appropriate staff training to ensure full awareness of devolution issues so best advice can be provided and for the UKBA to produce migration statistics on a localised basis, not just UK-wide, as this impedes planning and delivery of local services;
- Recommends the Scottish Government considers options submitted by the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership Scotland to ensure the future recognition of qualifications and skills migrants bring with them so that these are not lost and can be used to Scotland’s best advantage.
- Recommends the Scottish Government considers, along with public authorities and the voluntary sector, measures to disseminate information through Welcome Packs which will help migrants find their way round public services and signpost them to help and advice;
- Calls for more balanced media reporting on migration issues.
- Asks the Scottish Government how it proposes to provide leadership in driving through an anti-trafficking agenda in Scotland to ensure that Scotland is seen as a place in which traffickers cannot do business;
- Recommends the Scottish Government pursues with the UKBA its decision to withdraw funding for officers seconded to Dumfries and Galloway Police – despite concerns expressed by Kenny MacAskill MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, there appeared to be a significant route for trafficking from Belfast to Stranraer via the Republic of Ireland.
- The committee also said it was concerned that no-one had ever been prosecuted in Scotland for trafficking – while there have been more than 100 prosecutions in England. Instead, the inquiry found that those involved in offences where there is a background of trafficking were being prosecuted for lesser offences which attract lower penalties. In view of this, the committee has recommended the Scottish Government and the Crown Office explore the lack of prosecutions for trafficking
- Makes a number of recommendations in relation to the current review of the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), including in relation to the treatment of the victims of trafficking, whose immigration status tends to overshadow the process of determining whether or not they are a victim of trafficking. The committee also believes that children should not be subject to the NRM and that responsibility for them should rest with child protection services in local authorities.
- Recommends that the powers of arrest of the Gangmasters Licensing authority be extended to Scotland as currently the GLA is unable to work as effectively in Scotland as it does in the rest of the UK where this power is available.
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