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Moray Council to ask for change in law on asylum seekers

By Alistair Whitfield

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The Eight Acres Hotel in Elgin where 38 asylum seekers are currently being housed.
The Eight Acres Hotel in Elgin where 38 asylum seekers are currently being housed.

Moray Council will ask the Home Office to let asylum seekers work while their claims to stay in this country are being considered.

Its meeting today heard that there are currently 38 asylum seekers staying at the Eight Acres Hotel in Elgin.

By law they are not allowed to do paid work until their claims are decided – a process which is currently taking about 12 months.

Jérémie Fernandes denounced the UK asylum system as "the cruellest in the western world" and proposed that a letter be sent to the Home Office asking for a change in the law.

The councillor (Elgin North, SNP) added: "The Moray community responded with love and compassion to the arrival of the asylum seekers by providing them with everyday essentials, volunteering opportunities and recreational activities.

"This is in stark contrast with the treatment these people receive from the UK Government.

"Not only are they given a small room in a hotel and a meagre £8.24 to survive, but they are also the most basic dignity, which is to work to provide for themselves and the families they had to leave thousands of miles away in often war-torn countries."

Jérémie Fernandes. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Jérémie Fernandes. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

Cllr Fernandes stated that the 150,000 backlog in the asylum system meant that a 12-month wait was "pretty much guaranteed".

He continued: "In Moray we have huge workforce shortages. Stagecoach are struggling to recruit bus drivers. You're lucky if you get your mail twice a week in some parts of Elgin because Royal Mail is short on posties.

"The council itself has a whole lost of jobs they find difficult to recruit for.

"At the same time there are these young and fit people in Elgin who are willing and able to work. It's just common sense to let them work."

Donald Gatt.
Donald Gatt.

Donald Gatt (Keith and Cullen, Keith and Cullen) cited figures from the Office of National Statistics.

He said: "According to their information there are just over 24% of the people in Moray who are economically inactive and 2800 want a job. So I'm struggling with where we've got a labour shortage."

Cllr Fernandes' motion was passed after no one spoke against it.

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