Help asylum seekers further their education

27th July 2007 at 01:00
Can I appeal to your readers to keep up the pressure for changes in the regulations which currently deny many young asylum seekers access to higher education.

At present, they may have to pay overseas student fees, which vary from Pounds 5,000 to pound;23,000. This would be prohibitive to most people, never mind asylum seekers who are not permitted to work and who live on support of around pound;40 per week.

Last year, some of the Scottish universities did waive fees to enable places for six asylum seekers. But there are also asylum seeker school leavers in Scotland awaiting a decision on their asylum claim who are being denied access to higher education.

Asylum seekers are restricted to full or part-time ESOL (English speakers of other languages) courses and part-time courses up to advanced HNCD level for no more than 16 hours a week. Many attend part-time FE course after course as they await a decision on their asylum claim.

Marwan, a 23-year-old from Iraq who has been in Glasgow five years, achieved two As and a B in his Higher maths, physics and chemistry, and completed an HND course in mechanical engineering at Stow College. He was awarded a Hammer man Award, a prize given to high achievers who hope to pursue further studies or a career in engineering. Marwan can do neither. And he is unable to cash the cheque because he is cannot open a bank account.

In its election manifesto, the SNP said asylum seeker children should have the same rights as other children. An HMIE report recommended that the Scottish Executive consider treating asylum seekers as home students for the purposes of tertiary education, which has been endorsed in a motion tabled in parliament.

The new executive should seize the opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of these talented youngsters.

Sally Daghlian

chief executive, Scottish Refugee Council

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