Halt 'inhumane' Glasgow asylum seeker evictions, Serco urged

Housing provider is expected to enter first premises and change locks in next few days

A coalition of refugee and housing charities in Scotland is urging Serco to halt the “inhumane” eviction of hundreds of refused asylum seekers, days before the private housing provider is expected to enter the first premises in Glasgow and change the locks.

Amid a desperate flurry of litigation aimed at preventing hundreds of asylum seekers in the city being made destitute, Fiona McPhail, principal solicitor at Shelter Scotland, said: We are convinced that lock-change evictions due to be carried out by Serco are illegal and should not be going ahead … we call upon Serco to halt lock-change evictions until the law is clarified in ongoing litigation.”

The call comes a year after Serco first announced plans to evict 300 asylum seekers who have been told they cannot stay in the UK. Serco put the plans on hold following cross-party and cross-sector condemnation.

Charities and Glasgow city council have consistently raised concerns about an imminent homelessness crisis, with a refurbished night shelter for destitute asylum seekers only able to offer space for 22 people, compared with the hundreds potentially at risk.

Gary Christie, head of policy for the Scottish Refugee Council, said: “We are deeply worried about the impending forced evictions of asylum seekers in Glasgow.

“With correct advice and support, we know that many of those affected by this policy can get back on to statutory support. For those whose appeal rights have been exhausted, but who cannot return for various reasons to their country of origin, the Home Office should immediately grant them temporary status.”

A number of interim interdict orders preventing the evictions of individuals already served with notices by Serco have been obtained over the past week, with more to be heard.

In addition, Govan Law Centre – which lost its challenge to the lock-change procedures, described by the company as its “Move On Protocol”, at the court of session in April – has secured an early appeal of that ruling for the end of August.

Mike Dailly, the solicitor pursuing the appeal for Govan Law Centre, said: “It would be sensible for Serco to put lock-change evictions on hold pending a legally binding and authoritative ruling in Scotland.”

He warned that failure to do so “will necessitate hundreds of interdict actions by law centres and housing charities in Scotland”.

Serco, which lost the Home Office contract in Scotland earlier this year, said that restarting the eviction plans was “not a step we have taken lightly”.

It guaranteed that no more than 30 people would be issued with lock-changing notices in any one week, that tenants would be given at least 21 days’ notice to make alternative arrangements and that no children would be left homeless.

Serco also promised to donate up to £150,000 to charities supporting homeless people in Glasgow. This is the rough equivalent of the Refugee Survival Trust’s destitution grant of £70 a fortnight, which does not include accommodation costs, for the 300 individuals affected for just over three months.


Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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