Hundreds of asylum seekers face being made homeless
Around 300 refugees in Glasgow could be made homeless from today when a private company begins a programme of changing locks to emergency accommodation.
Serco will issue a first six ‘lock change’ notices today at refugee accommodation housing asylum seeker families and lone men and women, many of whom are fleeing war or persecution in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The residents, who the Home Office has determined will not be granted refugee status, will be given a week to leave the properties.
The families involved are likely to have nowhere to go as a result of the decision with many likely to end up homeless and potentially sleeping rough on the streets of Glasgow.
Refugee homelessness charity Positive Action in Housing has condemned the plans, insisting that evictions without court orders are illegal under Scots law.
The charity called on housing minister Kevin Stewart MSP to clarify his position in this matter and asked whether Police Scotland will protect the asylum seekers if they are being forced out of their homes by Serco staff without a court order.
Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, said: “We are appalled that Serco would carry out these actions against vulnerable refugees who endure interminable Home Office delays with their cases.
“I would urge Serco’s CEO, Rupert Soames, to desist from putting people onto the streets. He knows that this is what will happen if he allows this ‘Move On’ operation to take place.
“I would urge social housing landlords in Glasgow who are leasing flats to Serco to challenge the UK government’s hostile environment by preventing any illegal evictions or coercion to leave or lock changes in their housing stock. I would urge trade unions to also use their influence wherever possible.
“We have been told by several Serco residents that they have considered suicide. It is a chilling reminder of the triple suicide of an asylum seeking couple and their son Glasgow’s Red Road flats in 2010, on the day they were told they had to get out of their Home Office flat. To avoid lock changes, some Serco residents have stopped going to college or leaving their flats. We are talking about families, children, the elderly, the disabled, lone women and men.
“This is the hostile environment on Scottish soil, vulnerable refugees, many from Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, and Afghanistan, endure systematic cruelty at the hands of an asylum system that fast tracks them into “refused” asylum status, then leaves them destitute. It needs to be remembered that many of the asylum seekers that Serco intends to evict are pursuing their legal cases and have their decisions overturned on appeal. Destitution is a cheap way for the UK government not to support the vulnerable in our society, and create an underclass of exploited, invisible human beings with no purpose or hope.”
Scottish Labour MSP Mary Fee has said she is “utterly dismayed by Serco’s brutal decision to lock asylum seekers out of their properties with almost no prior warning” and described the move as “scandalous and lacking any compassion or rationale”.
Serco’s plans were shared with Ms Fee by the Women’s Asylum Seeker Housing (W-ASH) project, which is particularly concerned that many of the people involved will have nowhere to go and will end up homeless and sleeping rough on the streets of Glasgow. Of the 300 people that will be impacted, it is believed that 18 asylum seekers have mental health issues and nine asylum seekers have intrusive, suicidal thoughts.
W-ASH also believe Serco have not engaged with the third-sector/voluntary sector or any organisations in Glasgow that provide assistance and support for asylum seekers and that the move is an arbitrary decision which will have a real impact of destitution and homelessness.
Scottish Labour West Scotland MSP Mary Fee, said: “I am utterly dismayed by Serco’s brutal decision to lock asylum seekers out of their properties across Glasgow. Their decision to change the locks on properties with almost no prior warning is scandalous and lacks any compassion or rationale.
“The reality is that Serco are conducting a mass extra-judicial eviction of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
“Ultimately, this decision will force families in to homelessness. There will now be three hundred more people sleeping rough on Glasgow’s streets. That is a damming statistic.
“Every person has the human right to housing. This means access to a safe and habitable, home with freedom from forced eviction.
“This decision reveals the callous and inhumane nature of the UK Tory government’s ‘Hostile Environment’ policy as we have already seen with the Windrush Scandal.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are provided with free, fully furnished accommodation while applications are considered.
“We also cover utility costs and provide a cash allowance to cover other essential living needs.
“While an asylum claim is outstanding, we would not be seeking removal. Even if an asylum claim has failed, we will provide accommodation for those who would otherwise be destitute and who are temporarily unable to leave the UK because of a practical or legal obstacle.
“However it is right that we prepare for someone’s removal if they do not have a lawful basis to stay in the UK and they are not pursuing an appeal.”