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Free bus travel vow for asylum seekers in Scotland – BBC News

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Image caption, Campaigners have long called for people in the asylum system to be granted be free bus travel

The first minister has confirmed that free bus travel will be provided in Scotland to people seeking asylum.

Humza Yousaf said £2m had been set aside in next year’s Budget to pay for the scheme.

The Scottish Greens, who pushed for the move as part of their power-sharing agreement with the SNP government, said it could be “life-saving”.

The party said talks would be held with the Home Office as part of the scheme’s development.

Campaigners have said free bus travel would help prevent isolation among people in the asylum system, allowing them to more easily attend GPs, solicitors, language lessons and volunteering projects.

People applying for asylum in the UK are unable to work under Westminster employment law.

The Home Office provides £47.39 per week, about £6.80 a day, for people in uncatered accommodation, while those in hotels get just £9.58 per week, about £1.40 a day.

Green MSP Mark Ruskell said during First Minister’s Questions that the measure could be “life-saving” for people seeking asylum.

“When those people, having escaped from persecution, war and suffering, are now forced to live on just £6 a day, the very least that we can do is to extend a hand of help,” he said.

‘Fair to all’

Mr Yousaf supported those comments, telling MSPs the UK government’s “inhumane” asylum processes leave people destitute.

He added: “This announcement is the next step in making sure that our transport system, our country is fair and accessible to all.”

He said ministers at Holyrood would “need to step up the pressure on the current UK government, or the next one, to do the right thing”.

Image caption, Pinar Aksu, from the Maryhill Integration Network, welcomed the government’s announcement

The Maryhill Integration Network, which offers support to people seeking asylum in Glasgow, said it was “thrilled” about the funding announcement.

The group’s human rights and advocacy co-ordinator, Pinar Aksu, told BBC Scotland News: “We know that currently the immigration system in its form is extremely difficult, however in Scotland we are creating pathways to show we can make positive changes.

“Having free bus travel will allow people to freely travel, meet friends, attend groups, appointments and more. It will create some form of freedom in a system where movement is restricted.”

In a recent report, Holyrood’s equalities, human rights and civil justice committee said extending free bus travel to people in the asylum system would be “transformative”.

It called on Scottish ministers to develop a plan for a nationwide rollout – based on analysis from pilot, free-travel schemes that have operated in both Aberdeen and Glasgow – before the end of this parliamentary session.

The government will set out its budget later this year.

The Home Office has said it works “continually to ensure the needs and vulnerabilities of those residing in asylum accommodation are identified and considered, including those related to mental health and trauma”.

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