THE founder of Refuweegee has delivered a scathing assessment of the UK’s asylum plans as “law breaking and white supremacist”.

Selina Hales, director of the Glasgow-based charity which provides support, clothing and food for refugees, described the impact of the system as “inhumane”.

The Illegal Migration Bill is currently in its second reading in the House of Lords. It will change the law so that anyone who arrives in the UK “illegally” can be detained and removed, any asylum seeker removed will be permanently banned from the UK, and any who can’t be returned home will be “considered by a safe third country”, such as Rwanda.

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However, campaigners have pointed out that there is no legal route for claiming asylum in the UK, which will mean the legislation will effectively ban it.

And now, Refuweegee boss Hales, who works with asylum seekers and refugees has delivered a damning assessment of the impact of the current hostile environment policies used by the UK Government.

Speaking at a session of the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee, Hales told MSPs that the current system is “failing people spectacularly”.

“The poverty and trauma caused and exacerbated by our asylum and refugee systems are inhumane,” she said. “They're undignified and most importantly for today's discussion, they're unnecessary.

“The current systems are failing people spectacularly and the Illegal Migration Bill will increase this failure to a point that I and nobody else in this sector thought possible in this country.”

Hales told the committee that the Scottish Parliament and Government have “tangible actions” they can take to change that.

“I'm here today to share stories that me and my team hear daily about these failing systems,” she added.

“You can define that as evidence but I will politely refuse to use that language because it further dehumanises the people that have lived experience and trauma as a result of our failures to act.

“We have to stop shying away from what is happening here.

“We are witnessing not only law breaking, but systemic racism and white supremacy at its finest. I will not be complicit by refusing to call it what it is.”

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The Home Office denied the suggestion made by Hales that their policies are "racist" when contacted by The National. 

The committee probed Hales and other attendees on the conditions faced by refugees living in hotels, as well as the impact it has on mental health.

Hales told the committee that “space” is one of the most important things that the charity provides, as many can be left to live in a single hotel room for months on end.

“We are currently living under a system where space is actually an act of dignity,” Hales said.

“That is horrifying. We should all be ashamed of that.”

The National: Hales told the committee the current asylum system is 'failing people spectacularly'Hales told the committee the current asylum system is 'failing people spectacularly' (Image: Scottish Parliament)

Giving the example of a mother living in one of “the worst” hotels in Glasgow with two young children, Hales claimed the kids became unwell because of food and lack of nutrition.

She said: “Instead of that food being looked at, instead of any review taking place over whether there were five a day or any fresh food, because it's packed lunches every lunch for six months. Instead of a review of the food taking place, her children were given medication.

“We drugged the children rather than look at the problem. That's not, that's failure. That is absolute failure.”

The Home Office has disputed this claim and insisted accommodation hotel sites "do not provide medication". 

The Refuweegee boss also alleged the charity has experienced a “refusal” by both housing officers and hotel staff to allow charities to engage with the asylum seekers housed in hotels.

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She added: “Now that for me is the biggest problem here because without organisations, like Maryhill Integration Network, like Refuweegee, without those connections within communities, that is when mental health, isolation, depression, that is when everybody suffers.”

Hales also pointed out the difference between the current scheme and for Ukranians fleeing the war with Russia, who were integrated into society and school pupils were educated about the crisis and those joining their classroom. 

The committee also discussed the impact of living in hotels on children. Pinar Aksu, human rights and advocacy coordinator at Maryhill Integration Network, said that people can be stuck in the asylum process for many years.

“The huge impact of the unknown for building their life, for building their future, and the impact this is having on their mental health,” Aksu said.

Noting the issues with asylum seekers engaging with higher education, she explained: “During the pandemic we were stuck in the houses for a few months and we saw how that impacted on us, but we’re talking about people who have been in the system for years of not being able to do anything.

“The children of the people seeking asylum, there’s a huge barrier, especially when children reach the age of attending college or university. Once they reach that age, people cannot attend full-time courses at college or university, because they will be treated as international students.”

Aksu said that this is a “huge barrier” for the children of asylum seekers, as there are less than 10 scholarships in each Scottish university for refugees who would be otherwise expected to pay the high international fees.

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A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “Despite the number of people arriving in the UK reaching record levels, we continue to provide support for asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute.

"Asylum-seekers in receipt of catered accommodation are provided with three meals a day along with snacks and water, and a weekly allowance where eligible.

“The food provided in asylum hotels meets NHS Eatwell standards and responds to all culture and dietary requirements.

"Where concerns are raised about any aspect of the service delivered in a hotel, we work with the provider to ensure these concerns are addressed. Accommodation hotel sites cannot prescribe medication.”