Young asylum seekers do not have access to the free bus system

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SCOTLAND’s free youth bus scheme has come under fire from a charity, after it said asylum seekers had found it virtually impossible to access.

Concerns were raised after a question on an online forum, asking to apply for the new free bus pass for those under 21.

It said: “A woman I help is trying to get one for her cousin who is nine, but she doesn’t speak English so she doesn’t know how to fill out the form. It looks like no one can apply for this on behalf of a parent/guardian, so does anyone know of any services where someone could help them fill out the form…or if there is something what can I do as a volunteer to help?

“I’ve tried looking on the website but as it’s personal documents and a mygov.scot account I’m not sure how I can help on their behalf.”

Children under five can already ride for free, but young people between the ages of five and 21 can now apply for a free youth bus travel scheme which will come into effect at the end of this month.

Young people are encouraged to apply for their card online and from the Transport Scotland website they can access other destinations to get their Young Scot National Entitlement Card (NEC) – getyournec.scot and parentsportal.scot.

However, the charity Positive Action in Housing (PAIH) said the process does not take into account people such as asylum seekers, who may not have a good command of English.

The application process does not recognize the Application Registration Card (ARC) issued by the Home Office which is given to people seeking asylum, nor does it explain how people without passports, driving licenses or other acceptable forms of identification may apply.

PAIH director Robina Qureshi told The National: ‘The Enhancement Department is responsible for the National Entitlement Card (NEC) program and the online application process.

“Apparently the free bus pass system has not been tested or consulted, which has resulted in a discriminatory two-tier system affecting asylum seekers disproportionately to the point that they cannot apply. in line.

“We have discussed this with our network of asylum seekers which includes almost 500 asylum seekers of all ages in Glasgow. People are very unhappy with what they call second class treatment. Asylum seekers are entitled to equal access, which means they can apply online like everyone else.

“So we wrote to the Service de l’Amélioration to ask them to include additional supporting documents, in particular the Arc card and the immigration guarantee letter which includes a bar code identifying the asylum seekers. We understand that every asylum seeker has one or both. This evidence should then replace applying for passports or driving licenses, which are not permitted under asylum policy, and UK birth certificates which many asylum seekers do not have.
“The free bus pass system has never been tried or tested on real people. Equality means equal access, and it currently does not.

One asylum seeker said: ‘When they made this form they didn’t think of us, so that means we don’t belong to us, and yet our children proudly call themselves Scots.

“We should campaign that in future when the Scottish Government introduces anything new they think about asylum seekers and how it affects us.”

Transport Scotland gave us a statement which did not answer any of the questions we asked.

A spokesperson said: “The application process for the free youth bus scheme is managed by the Betterment Department and individual local authorities, in conjunction with the National Entitlement Card Scheme Office.

“Transport Scotland is responsible for its policy and its operation.

“When applying for a National Entitlement Card (NEC) to access the program, proof of eligibility is required, which includes proof of person and proof of address, and parents or guardians must apply on behalf of children under 16 years old.

“The proof of residence and person required to apply, online or offline, for an NEC or a Young Scot NEC for those under 22 are the same as for the elderly and disabled scheme.

“The Free Youth Bus scheme will provide easier access to work, education and leisure for almost one million young people aged 5 to 21 living in Scotland.

“We know that some people may not be able to apply online and other avenues of application are available to ensure no eligible young people are left out.”

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