Backdoor proposals to withdraw benefit rights from some asylum seekers are being slipped through as part of a series of amendments to Social Security regulations. which are expected to be passed a week before Christmas. Refugees seeking political asylum who will be affected by the changes are those appealing against deportation from Britain. a process which typically takes three months. Refugees who fail to register their intention to seek asylum on arrival in the country will also be affected.

Media coverage of the Home Office ‘white list' aimed at further limiting the number ofasylum seekers admitted into the country has diverted attention from the proposals. which if passed will take affect in January. The Scottish Refugee Council has alerted organisations like homeless charity Shelter. waming that withdrawal of income support and housing benefit could force asylum seekers onto the streets.

Asylum seekers: proposed changes could

mean refugee children are taken into care

The Social Security secretary Peter Lilley has been lobbied by a number of welfare agencies. with pleas to make exceptions for children. pregnant women. the disabled and the elderly. They are also lobbying MPs to force a debate on the amendment. which could go through on the nod.

‘lt‘s a little amendment but it will have a huge itnpact.‘ said an SRC spokeswoman. ‘lt‘s difficult to believe

g that such inhuman measures are being proposed by a British government but

the facts speak for themselves.‘

There are fears that anyone made homeless by withdrawal of benefits will also be denied access to help front publicly-funded emergency aid

organisations. This leaves open the

possibility that children could be taken from their parents and put into care. The proposals are seen as part of a package of government controls aimed at ‘weeding out‘ bogus asylum seekers. Global unrest has resulted in an escalating number of asylum claims. which have more than doubled in the past year. There are 3000-4000

' refugees currently living in Glasgow

and the Lothians. Fatima [not her real name] from

Karachi in Pakistan is one of around 35 f asylum seekers in central Scotland who will be affected by loss ofbenefits. She

Benefit changes threaten to make refugees homeless

fled to Britain when local government outlawed the college branch of the Pakistani People‘s Party of which she was president. Fatima and many other female activists lived in constant fear of persecution and stoning.

Like the majority of people applying for asylum in the UK. Fatima comes from an educated and comfortable background. She strongly rejects the suggestion that their objective is to exploit Britain's benefit system. ‘iler: we live lonely lives in a cold country where we feel unwelcome.‘ she said. ‘We would all go home tomorrow if we could be assured of our safety.‘

Sal and Omar. who could lose their benefits under the new proposals, sought refuge in Scotland after fleeing from the Sudan. Both men were forced to leave well-paid jobs after criticising the country‘s military regime. ‘The British public need to understand that there are places where speaking out against injustice can put your life in danger.‘ said Omar. (Conchita Pinto)

Selling sex

for _ Bosnia

Protesslng to have more in common with lads mag loaded than the worthy but now defunct Harpies & Uuines comes an up-market Scottish women’s magazine with its eye on a till-wide circulation.

‘Sex is something everybody’s fascinated by,’ said publisher Ilkkle du Preez. ‘We are concerned with political correctness which makes men unable to say this picture is beautiful. lite are making a statement against those who say this is wrong.’

The launch of the glossy bl-monthly has been made possible by corporate sponsorship from GrandMet, which paid for five full-time staff under a graduate training scheme. Du Preez is founder of the Edinburgh-based charity Bosnia ilow and £1 from the magazine’s £2.25 cover price will be donated to former Yugoslavia. ‘lots of people went meaning in their lives and this magazine is about not being

driven purely by profit,‘ said do Preez.

In the wake of Essex teenager Leah : Betts’ recent death, Labour MPs are to i visit clubs and raves in Scotland to find out first hand what clubbers think about dance drugs such as ecstacy and speed. The visits are being organised by opposition Scottish home affairs spokesman, John McFall, as part of the party’s Crime Initiative. ‘Wlth the debate that’s raging [about dance drugs], John thought he ought

said a member of McFall’s staff. ‘He will find out from the young people who are actually involved why they take them and what their reactions are. The MP3 will also be consulting


Scottish MPs to go clubbing as part of drug initiative

with other agencies like the police and social work departments so that when they draw up legislation it will be suitable and workable. Because things are moving so fast on the drugs scene, John is calling for a standing committee to be set up.’ Last year’s all-party Scottish Affairs Committee report Drug Abuse in Scotland contained only a short section on dance drugs.

to go and actually see What 9085 Ofl.’ ' The Scottish Office also reacted

quickly to Leah Betts’ death by announcing that it is to introduce a ‘rave bill‘ during the next parliamentary session. While the bill has yet to be drafted, Scottish

secretary Michael Forsyth said he would be giving ‘licensing boards the power they need to require that there are proper safeguards and control over raves held in licensed premises.’

The bill will be based on guidelines being drawn up by the Scottish Drugs Forum which offer practical advice to club runners on minimising the risk to ravers, including the provision of free drinking water and chill-out areas. The guidelines will also suggest ways of giving club-goers information about the risks associated with different drugs.

‘The risks of drug use can be greatly reduced by safer clubs and more responsible drug use,’ said drugs worker Lee Fawcett, who is drawing up the guidelines for SDF. (Thom Dibdin)

In the next issue The list is publishing an extensive guide to club venues in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The new councils which come into effect in April must ‘earn the respect' of voters. Deirdre Hutton ofthe Scottish Consumer Council will tell a local govemment conference next i week. ‘One ofthe biggest challenges ; for local govemment is to find ways of reflecting the community they represent so people feel some ownership of the council.‘ said Hutton. who is chairwoman of the SCC. ‘Their real job is selling their own legitimacy.‘

Hutton believes that in the longer term an important measure of whether the council shake-up has been successful will be the voter figures at local govemment elections. According to statistics from the Scottish Local Government lnfonnation Unit. Britain is near the foot of the European league

table for electoral tum-out at council elections. with less than half of those

eligible voting in April this year. Around 90 per cent of voters turn out at local government elections in Luxembourg and Sweden.

‘Voting tum-out is a useful measure of

1 r

Michael Forsyth: devolving power to councils

the way local govemment is regarded in its own patch.‘ said Hutton. ‘There has been a failure to consult voters of many years and the paternalistic view [of councils] has tended to alienate people.‘

Scottish secretary Michael Forsyth is expected to announce plans today (Thursday) to return powers to local authorities in Scotland that have been eroded by central government intervention. The anticipated move to

Councils should ‘earn respect’ of electorate

' devolve power to councils is widely seen as a way for the Conservatives to head off calls for a Scottish parliament. Already Forsyth has required the new ‘unitary' or single-tier councils to come up with plans to decentralise control of local services. The councils‘ proposals must be submitted to the Scottish Office by April I997.

At least one new council. Fife. has signalled its intention to introduce more local accountability from April next year with the creation of three area committees to take decisions at a local level.

‘My concern is that in the stramash between central and local govemment. there‘s a real sense that the interests of the consumers of council services have been left out.‘ said Hutton. ‘We want to see local authorities finding new ways of organising themselves so they are more responsive to the way people‘s lives are structured. People‘s lives are not generally organised in departments it's only local government that is.‘ (Eddie Gibb)

4 The List l-i4 Dec 1995