THE UK Government is pressing ahead with plans to force impoverished asylum seekers in Scotland to travel hundreds of miles to lodge appeals in England despite facing legal challenges over the move.

The Sunday Herald revealed in January how the Home Office planned to change the asylum system so that anyone appealing to stay in the UK would have to turn up in person in Liverpool to meet with immigration officials.

The move was put on hold after a storm of criticism from refugee charities, Scottish ministers and Liverpool City Council - which raised fears over the city being swamped by destitute asylum seekers.

But a letter leaked to the Sunday Herald has revealed the Home Office now intends to press ahead with the change from March 30.

However Liverpool City Council and a Glasgow-based solicitor have said they still intend to lodge a legal challenge to the change.

The new rules affect asylum seekers who have had their initial application rejected, but want to submit fresh support for their case - such as proof that they would be persecuted if they return to their home country. Previously documents could be submitted by post or at a local immigration centre.

Expenses for the journey to Liverpool will not be provided to the asylum seekers, who have already had all financial support withdrawn and are not allowed to work.

Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, a charity which supports refugees, said: "For those living in Scotland the prospect of forced travel to Liverpool means that they are unlikely to ever be able to submit further evidence. The Liverpool travel policy represents a breach of natural justice and people's basic human rights.

"It's an attempt by the UK Government to prevent asylum seekers from getting the right to remain in this country."

Glasgow-based immigration lawyer Fraser Latta said he planned to challenge the policy.

He said: "It is disappointing that the Home Office have proceeded with this policy, which significantly impacts upon some of the most vulnerable people within our society. It remains our position that the proposed change is potentially unlawful."

A spokesman for Liverpool City Council also confirmed it was still intending to mount a legal challenge to the policy.

Communities Secretary Alex Neil, who has previously written to Home Secretary Theresa May calling for the plans not to be implemented, described asylum seekers as "some of the most vulnerable in society', saying: "This is yet another example of the Home Office making life even more difficult than it already is for asylum seekers, and for what appears to be no good reason."

A Home Office spokesman said: "These changes will apply only to failed asylum seekers whose claims have already been refused. They will significantly speed up decision-making, enabling us to grant protection more quickly to those who genuinely need it."