Call for urgent inquiry into Glasgow asylum seeker allegations
Mr Rennie was speaking following reports that asylum seekers have been locked out of their homes in a breach of eviction guidelines by staff working for private companies operating Home Office contracts.
According to BBC Scotland, property management firm Orchard & Shipman (O&S) instructed staff to “remove individuals” from specific addresses, a practice strongly denied by the firm.
Emails obtained by BBC Scotland suggest that O&S staff were provided with lists of properties that needed to be cleared of “overstayers” by certain dates.
It follows claims in The Times that asylum seekers in Scotland were being bullied by staff, and accommodated in shockingly poor housing.
The reports included allegations of a mother and baby being housed in a cockroach-infested property, O&S staff spraying air fresheners at asylum seekers, while laughing and pinching their noses, and an allegation of a man being housed in a property with blood-spattered walls and no lock on the front door.
The latter allegations prompted the Scottish Refugee Council to urge the Home Office to commission an independent inquiry into O&S.
John Wilkes, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, said: “These latest allegations follow recent concerning practices in Home Office contracted asylum accommodation such as the ’red doors’ scandal in Middlesbrough and asylum seekers required to wear coloured wristbands in Cardiff.
“A report on asylum seeker accommodation carried out in 2014 by the Scottish Refugee Council highlighted many similar issues. If the latest allegations are upheld, the problems seem to have only got worse, particularly the alleged discriminatory and neglectful conduct within Orchard and Shipman.
“The Home Office has clear legal responsibilities towards refugees. These include ensuring people fleeing persecution from countries like Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan who arrive in the UK seeking asylum have their claims properly considered and that they are housed and supported in a humane and dignified way during this process.
“Claiming asylum is a human right and not a crime.”
Speaking on the latest allegations, Mr Rennie said: “This is the latest of a string of reports which suggest that the company operating the Home Office contract in Glasgow have taken a fundamentally inhumane approach to working with vulnerable people seeking asylum.
“Changing the locks on properties and making people homeless as a matter of policy is utterly shameful.
“Two weeks on from the first reports of problems with the Home Office contract we are yet to hear anything from UK government ministers about how they will ensure that asylum seekers are treated fairly. The government has paid out millions to the companies involved here. We need an urgent, independent inquiry into these allegations.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We take every effort to inspect all asylum accommodation on a regular basis to ensure that it meets the required standard and asylum seekers are treated with respect.
“We will investigate any complaint we receive that a contractor is falling short of these standards.
“Where there is evidence that this is the case, we work with providers to ensure issues are quickly addressed and when they are not we can and do impose sanctions.”