Sunak’s asylum plans a ‘dark day’ for Britain, warns Yousaf

He added that the Scottish Government is ‘proud of the benefits that migrants bring to this country’.

Rebecca McCurdy
Thursday 07 December 2023 14:23 GMT
Humza Yousaf has criticised Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s new Rwanda Bill (Jane Barlow/PA)
Humza Yousaf has criticised Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s new Rwanda Bill (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Wire)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


The UK Government’s immigration plans are a “real dark day” for the country, Scotland’s First Minister said as he accused the Prime Minister of dismantling asylum processes.

Humza Yousaf, whose grandfather came to Scotland from Pakistan in the 1960s to work in a sewing machine factory in Clydebank, addressed the issue during First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) on Thursday.

It came as Scottish Conservative leader and Moray MP Douglas Ross told journalists in Holyrood he plans to back the UK Government’s Bill declaring Rwanda a safe destination for asylum seekers.

The emergency legislation looks to get around the Supreme Court’s block on previous plans to send asylum seekers to the African nation, with PM Rishi Sunak hailing the proposals during a Downing Street press conference on Thursday.

At FMQs, Mr Yousaf was asked by SNP MSP Clare Haughey whether he condemns further immigration plans which will see care workers prevented from bringing their families with them to the UK.

The First Minister responded: “It’s a real dark day for the UK – a country that once welcomed immigrants, including my grandfather to the country, in fact, begged him to come and others to come to work in their factories, to drive buses, due to the labour shortages that were seen at that time.”

He also took aim at Labour as he accused successive governments at Westminster of watering down migration policies.

Mr Yousaf said: “What successive UK governments have done – Labour and Conservatives – is they have, bit by bit, dismantled our immigration and indeed our asylum processes.

“On immigration, the latest announcements mean that we’re asking – the UK Government is asking – migrants to come here to look after our own family members but doing so by abandoning their own family members back home.

“On asylum, the UK Government has virtually eliminated any practical legal route for those that are fleeing war or persecution.

“The policies of the UK Government in this respect are not only morally repugnant, but they are economically illiterate.

“The SNP, the Scottish Government, values migration. We value the importance of it to our social fabric but also to our economy, and let me say unequivocally that in Scotland, the Scottish Government will always say that we are proud of the benefits that migrants bring to this country, and we are proud that they have chosen Scotland to be their home.”

Speaking after FMQs, Mr Ross said of migrant small boat crossings: “It’s absolutely vital that we use every policy available to prevent people from making an extremely dangerous crossing – we see far too many lives lost in the English Channel.

“That’s why the Prime Minister has looked at the ruling from the Supreme Court, he’s looked at the legislation that can be brought through the UK Parliament to deter people from making that dangerous crossing, from putting their life at risk, and also to ensure the people that benefit from this currently – the people smugglers – that route is stopped from them.

“I will be supporting the Bill when it comes to Parliament.”

Home Secretary James Cleverly said: “We are taking crucial steps forward to respond to the Supreme Court’s findings, which recognised that changes could be delivered to make this landmark partnership work.

“Building on our legally binding treaty, the Safety of Rwanda Bill will make absolutely clear in UK law that Rwanda is a safe country.

“This will play a key part in our efforts to stop the boats and save lives – I would urge Parliament to ensure the legislation is passed as soon as possible.

“Rwanda is a country that cares deeply about supporting refugees. It stands ready to welcome those relocated there.”

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