Campaigners welcome free bus passes for asylum seekers announcement
Published on 6 November 2023
A multi-faith partnership charity backed by the Church has welcomed a decision to extend the free bus pass scheme to asylum seekers.
Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees said the policy would have a "transformational" impact on people waiting for their claims to be heard during which time they are forbidden to work and forced to survive on as little as £9.50 a week.
A day ticket for bus travel can cost £5.
The Scottish Religious Leaders Forum played a critical role in a campaign to persuade the Scottish Government to invest £2 million from next year's budget to extend the free bus travel scheme to asylum seekers and refugees including displaced people from Ukraine.
They argued that extending schemes already in place for people aged 5-22 and 60 plus would be a humane, just and life-changing response to help one of the most disadvantaged and isolated groups in society who have experienced "unimaginable suffering".
The campaign was spearheaded by the Maryhill Integration Network in Glasgow which says the issue is a key social justice policy.
Abiola, an asylum seeker from Nigeria who has lived in Glasgow for five years, said having a free bus pass to enable her to move around more freely would be a tremendous benefit to her mental health and wellbeing.
"The restrictions and limitations placed on asylum seekers make us feel like we are prisoners," she added.
Responding to the Scottish Government decision, David Moodie, co-ordinator of Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees, said: "This policy will have a transformational effect on the lives of people waiting for their asylum claims to be heard.
"It will allow people to attend important appointments, access services that benefit their wellbeing, and give them the ability to access places of worship.
"This will have an untold benefit to people's wellbeing and will help people to integrate within their communities."
Mr Moodie said there are many challenges facing people within the asylum system and faith communities will continue to advocate for them.
"However, we recognise this as an important step towards making Scotland a more welcoming society and a place of sanctuary for all those looking for safety," he added.
"We look hopefully to a future in Scotland where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and contribute to their communities.
"We are hopeful that this news brings us one step closer to that future."
The issue was debated by MSPs in the Scottish Parliament on 26 October.
The Scottish Religious Leaders Forum's intervention in the campaign was referenced by three MSPs including Paul Sweeney, a member for Glasgow who brought forward the motion for debate.
Activists and campaigners have also expressed their gratitude to faith leaders using their voices in this way.