Blog July 2023

Standing with Refugees

Our Response to the Illegal Migration Bill becoming Law.

The UK’s Illegal Migration Bill was passed at Westminster this week. It raises stark questions about the UK’s obligations to the international community. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights has flagged this as a worrying precedent for dismantling asylum-related obligations elsewhere. The issues involved are profoundly emotive at a time when many would prefer to look away. We cannot do that.  

As an independent funder, with a responsibility to speak up when some cannot, we reaffirm our solidarity with people seeking asylum in the UK. We all have a right to access safety, security and to be protected from harm. We should expect our asylum system to make safe decisions without years of delay as we have been witnessing. The first rule of law-making should be to do no harm. This new legislation carries with it many harmful consequences.  

Charities working with refugees, including those we fund and partner with, anticipate thousands of people seeking sanctuary – including children and young people - will be pushed to the margins, putting them at high risk of exploitation, destitution and disappearance. Those detained will be criminalised and left in limbo with no control over their circumstances, at risk of enduring further trauma.   

We acknowledge that there will be grave consequences for the people served by our grant holders and partners, and for the staff and volunteers working with them. We want to assure them we are here first to listen, to understand the impacts and then to identify how we can help to mitigate the immediate resulting harm.  

We are committed to work in alliance with those closest to the issues, to amplify the consequences of poor legislation that has been passed with inadequate scrutiny and regard for risk. For example, devolved powers in Scotland to support the survivors of human trafficking will be removed, while the duties of Scottish local authorities to safeguard vulnerable children are set to clash with new powers for the Home Office to accommodate the same children.

In line with the recommendations set out by JustRight Scotland, Scottish Refugee Council and the Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland (CYPCS) based on commissioned legal opinion on the Bill, we urge Scottish Ministers and public agencies to respond in practical terms in proportion to the harm the Act will create.   

While this is a dark time, our focus must go beyond the here-and-now. We will help to advocate for a humane, just and effective asylum system, underpinned by public and political will for this to succeed. Alongside Together With Refugees, we support an approach that means: 

  • People can seek safety in the UK, no matter how they came here. 
  • People live in dignity not destitution while they wait to hear if they will be granted protection.  
  • A more efficient, consistent and transparent system to decide whether people will be granted protection. 
  • Refugees and local communities are supported to build better futures together, with proper support for local authorities and third sector organisations to do this. 
  • The UK making a fair and proportionate contribution to help people who are forced to flee their homes. 

Human rights are universal – they apply to all without exception. We stand in solidarity with those seeking protection in our communities. We will continue to work alongside others to build an asylum and immigration system that treats everyone with dignity and respect, fulfilling our duties as part of the international community and upholding human rights in practice.

We do not think that simply returning to the status quo would achieve this. In cities like Glasgow, asylum seekers who did not seek to be dispersed there have waited for years to have their applications assessed, living with extreme insecurity and in deep poverty. We know from Simon Community Scotland whom we have funded recently that up to 80% of those who are unsuccessful at first manage to succeed on appeal. We need to invest in a system that gets it right first time.      

At The Robertson Trust, cutting across our work is a determination to build our know-how and practical action on issues of power and justice. We recognise that changing the way we work is not just about funding: we are looking at what we need to change across all of our objectives. We have committed to a whole organisational approach to learning and action on Anti-Racism and Allyship, becoming trauma-informed and advancing participation.

These actions help us frame our mission as one of advancing justice with our partners rather than extending charity. We will be sharing more of our plans and the Trust’s EDPR statement (Equity, Diversity, Participation and Rights) shortly.