£100,000 to help refugees reunite
9 May 2018, 15:21
Refugees who flee to Scotland can now apply for grants to help their family settle in the country, even if they are still separated from their loved ones.
Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said waiting until a family had been reunited before an application could be made meant that people coming to Scotland were "forced to start their new life in abject poverty".
The Scottish Government is now providing £100,000 for Family Reunion Crisis Grants, which refugees can apply for ahead of their relatives' arrival.
The money will help with initial living costs and can help pay for essential items, such as beds, for those arriving in Scotland under family reunion rules.
Hadgu, who came to Scotland from Eritrea, was separated from his wife and children for three-and-half years before they arrived in Scotland in March this year.
"Nothing makes me happier than to be reunited with my wife Helen and my three daughters," he said.
He arrived in the UK in September 2015 and was granted refugee status in November the following year.
The British Red Cross has been helping the family apply for crisis grants while they wait for benefits to come through.
Ms Constance said: "Too many people arriving in Scotland under family reunion arrangements are forced to start their new life in abject poverty because they cannot apply for support until they arrive here.
"When you consider that these people have been separated from their families, have fled their home - often under threats of violence and death - that is not acceptable.
"Scotland is a welcoming country and we want everyone who chooses it as their new home to be able to do so with a sense of safety, security and hope for their future here.
"We firmly believe in supporting refugees from the day they get here and these grants are an example of how we can provide practical support for people to get back on their feet and take their place as valued members of our communities."
Phil Arnold, head of refugee support for the British Red Cross, said: "Being with family is one of the most basic instincts that people have, and this is no different for refugees.
"By introducing grants for newly reunited families, we can make sure they face a more certain future together, and remove the risk of refugee families falling into destitution or homelessness."