Free bus travel for asylum seekers ‘transformative’ says CTA

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Free travel will make a huge difference to the lives of asylum seekers in Scotland, says the CTA. JONATHAN WELCH

Free bus travel for people seeking asylum in Scotland will be ‘transformative,’ says transport charity the Community Transport Association (CTA). Scottish Minister for Active Travel Patrick Harvie MSP announced on Saturday at his party’s annual conference in Dunfermline that the Scottish Government will invest £2m to extend the concessionary bus pass, which offers free bus travel to people aged under 22 and over 60, as well as disabled people, to everyone in Scotland who is seeking asylum.

The move was welcomed by the Community Transport Association (CTA), which has published new research showing that more than four in five people seeking asylum in Scotland have been unable to use public transport due to its cost and half cannot afford it ‘all or almost all of the time’; since they are prevented from working by Home Office regulations and have to survive on a fixed daily allowance of around £6. The report has been published by the CTA in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation in support of the now successful campaign led by the Maryhill Integration Network for free bus travel for people seeking asylum. It also calls on the Government and bus operators to do more to end discrimination, harassment and racism on public transport, improve access to information and integrate ticketing and services to make Scotland’s buses, trains, trams, ferries and subway safe and welcoming for all users.

CTA Director for Scotland David Kelly said: “We warmly welcome the Minister’s announcement that the Scottish Government will invest £2m in free bus travel for everyone in Scotland who is seeking asylum. The testimonials in our new report demonstrate how important buses are for people seeking asylum as an essential part of their daily lives, but also how unaffordable tickets are. The community relies on the bus to get to the shops to buy essentials, to visit family and friends and to take their kids to school.

“Free bus travel will be transformative, giving people seeking asylum a feeling of freedom and helping them to better integrate into our society. The success of the campaign is credit to the community’s determination and the hard work of our friends at the Maryhill Integration Network.

“However, there is much more still to do to make sure public transport in Scotland is accessible and affordable for all of our people and communities. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government, as well as local authorities, bus operators, passengers and partners, to make this happen.”