Migration in Scotland

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Co-financed by the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals

2. Migration in Scotland

2.3 How people migrate to Scotland

There are different rules setting out how people can migrate to Scotland.  These differ significantly depending on whether or not people come to the UK from within or outwith the European Union.  There are separate rules in relation to humanitarian protection, and for those who are seeking asylum in this country.

2.3.1 Migration from within the European Union

As the UK is part of the European Union, it is part of the agreement that means that people within the European Union enjoy free movement between member states.  This means that migrants from the European Union have the right to live and work anywhere in the UK.  In the UK, this right covers everyone in the European Economic Area – which includes all EU states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway and, for immigration purposes, Switzerland.  

As countries join the European Union, the way in which people can move across the Union is carefully managed.  For example, labour market restrictions were put in place to limit movement from Bulgaria and Romania when they joined the European Union in 2007.  The restrictions for movement from Bulgaria and Romania were removed in January 2014.  Currently, there are some restrictions on people from Croatia working in the UK.  Croatia joined the EU in 2013.  The UK Government website has more information on restrictions on working in the UK as a Croatian national.  

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More information on migration rules within the European Union are available from the European Commission’s EU Immigration Portal.

There is guidance for people arriving in Scotland on www.scotland.org, the official gateway to Scotland.

Chapter Eight of this toolkit contains more information about rights and entitlements of migrants.

2.3.2 Migration from outwith the European Union 

In Scotland, the rules on migration are set by the UK Government as migration policy is reserved to Westminster.

Some Commonwealth citizens are entitled to live and work in the UK without immigration restrictions.  These are largely historic arrangements, applying to people who have been Commonwealth citizens since 1982.  Similar criteria cover children and wives of Commonwealth citizens.  The UK Government website has more detail on these entitlements.  

Beyond this, there is a UK wide Points Based System which provides opportunities for migrants beyond the European Union to live and work in the UK, provided they meet certain criteria.  There is a skills shortage list attached to the Points Based System and an additional skills shortage list for Scotland which recognises the different skills needs that can exist in the Scottish economy. The list for Scotland is developed in consultation with Scottish stakeholders including the Scottish Government, local authorities and the business community.  

The Migration Advisory Committee offers independent, evidence based advice on migration issues and is responsible for making recommendations to UK Government on the skills covered on this list.

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Find out about the work of the Migration Advisory Committee.

2.3.3 Refugees and asylum seekers

A refugee is someone who:

“owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group of political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”

(1951 Refugee Convention)

An asylum seeker is someone who states that he or she is a refugee, but whose claim for refugee status is being evaluated.  Asylum applicants make up approximately 4 per cent of all migrants to Britain.

Local authorities across the UK have had a key role in providing services for asylum seekers since the UK Government introduced its asylum dispersal policy in 1999.  Chapter Three of this toolkit provides more information. 

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Find out about Glasgow City Council’s work on asylum dispersal

New Scots: Integrating Refugees in Scotland’s Communities is a strategy developed by COSLA, Scottish Government and Scottish Refugee Council which aims to support the integration of asylum seekers and refugees across Scotland.

The Scottish Refugee Council website has a great deal of information about the work that they do to support refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland.  It has produced a bank of stories from asylum seekers and refugees in Scotland and has lots of useful facts and figures.

The UK Government provides asylum statistics as part of its immigration statistics quarterly release.

2.3.4 Humanitarian protection schemes

The UK Government operates a number of different schemes that support asylum seekers, refugees and vulnerable migrant groups in coming to the UK.  Local authorities are central to the success of these schemes and can actively choose to participate.  Chapter Three of this toolkit covers this in more detail.