Scotland has its place in the protection of refugees, a conference hears
Responsible nations must do more to ensure the safety of refugees, a conference has heard.
An event held by the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) said the global refugee crisis has "never been more dire or more critical".
The charity held a conference after its AGM in Glasgow's City Chambers to discuss Scotland's role in supporting people displaced by conflict, persecution and torture.
UN figures show the number of refugees around the world is at its highest in nearly two decades, with around 16 million people fleeing their home countries in search of safety.
The debate discussed what role Scotland should play in supporting refugees, including those from Syria, and looked at the challenges and opportunities in post-referendum Scotland to continue to provide a place of sanctuary to people in need.
Humza Yousaf, minister for Europe and international development, told the conference the Scottish Government would work to secure more powers for Scotland to support humanitarian efforts.
He said: “Recent global events, such as the crisis in Syria, have demonstrated that now, more than ever, the world needs countries like Scotland to act with compassion as a good global citizen. Scotland has a long history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers, and when people turn to us for help, we want to be there.”
The situation facing refugees around the world has never been more dire or more critical - John Wilkes
John Wilkes, chief executive of SRC, said while 2014 was a momentous year for Scotland, it was also a year that saw millions of people flee their homes in a desperate attempt to save their own and their children’s lives - a trend that was likely to continue into 2015.
“Scotland has offered protection and the chance of a safe and dignified life to refugees fleeing torture, terror and persecution from all corners of the world for many decades.
“As Scottish Refugee Council celebrates its 30th anniversary this year we hope to build on the energy that people brought to the debate about the future of Scotland, and collectively push for a better, fairer, more humane approach to asylum in an increasingly interconnected world.
“The situation facing refugees around the world has never been more dire or more critical. We cannot afford not to face up to dealing collectively with the humanitarian problems that come from displacement.”
Meanwhile a rule change to be enforced by the Home Office from 26 January means that the foreign nationals will have to travel to Liverpool to submit evidence that could help their case at local immigration centres.
The rule change will apply to asylum seekers who have had their initial applications rejected by the Home Office. Many rejected asylum seekers win appeals, but there are fears the new arrangements will deter vulnerable people from fighting to remain in Scotland as they have only 10 working days to appeal in person.
It is feared most asylum seekers will be unable to get enough cash to pay for expensive travel to and from Liverpool in such a short period of time.
The SRC has described the rule change by the UK Visas and Immigration department as "obstructive".
The charity's head of policy Gary Christie said: "People make fresh claims for protection for two main reasons. Firstly, initial decision-making by the Home Office is often flawed, as we've seen by the high rates of initial decisions overturned on appeal.
"Secondly, and crucially, claims for asylum are inherently complex. It is often difficult for people to gather the evidence the Home Office requires to prove that they will be subject to torture, persecution and human rights abuses if they return to their home countries."
A spokesman for the Home Office said: "These changes will apply only to failed asylum seekers whose claims have already been refused. They will significantly speed up decision-making, enabling us to grant protection more quickly to those who genuinely need it."