Glasgow Games panned for excluding asylum seekers as volunteers

By staff writers
23 Jan 2013

The Scottish Refugee Council wants Glasgow 2014’s volunteer criteria changed to allow asylum seekers to be volunteers at the Commonwealth Games.

At present, the rules for volunteers say they must be eligible to work in the UK, making them stricter than UK immigration law, which allows asylum seekers to volunteer even though they cannot work.

Glasgow has a 2000-strong asylum seeker community - the highest such population outside London.

Gary Christie, who is head of Policy for the Scottish Refugee Council, commented to The Glaswegian: "We are extremely disappointed and frustrated by the Commonweath Games Organising Committee’s decision not to allow asylum seekers to volunteer for this exciting event."

He explained: "Asylum seekers, many of whom flee horrendous situations of violence and persecution in their home countries, have a wealth of skills but are not allowed to work while their asylum claim is processed."

"Many choose to volunteer," said Mr Christie. "The sense of value and self-worth that this brings is extremely positive at a time when they have to deal with the stress of going through the often inhumane asylum system. They can contribute to society which is good for the whole of Scotland.”

He added that it “adds insult to injury” that asylum seekers from Commonwealth Countries with poor human rights records, including Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, will be disbarred from volunteering during the 2014 Games.

Christie said: “We believe the Commonwealth Games, which gets public support both financially and in kind, owes the people of Glasgow, whatever their background, much more.”

The Scottish government has a policy of integrating asylum seekers into the community, and critics of the Games chiefs' stance on volunteering say that it is in violation of this policy.

The Games and the Government are also under intense pressure not to allow outlaw private contractor ATOS, which is accused of degrading disabled people in the way it conducts fitness for work tests, to continue as an official sponsor.

Disabled protesters occupied the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games headquarters in protest against ATOS sponsorship at the end of last year, and they have pledged that nonviolent action will continue.

* Scottish Refugee Council: http://www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk/

* ATOS Victims Group: http://atosvictimsgroup.co.uk/

* Games Monitor 2014: http://gamesmonitor2014.wordpress.com/

[Ekk/3]

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