Home Office lodges full defences in Serco lock-change case

The Home Office has lodged its full defences with the Court of Session in the legal challenge against a series of lock-change orders issued to tenants refused asylum in the UK.

The government department’s contractor Serco had planned to evict more than 300 asylum seekers in Glasgow before being forced to temporarily pause the action ahead of a court challenge following pressure from campaigners and charities, including a number of city-based housing associations.

In its full defences of the case, which is being brought against the Home Office and Serco by the Govan Law Centre, the Home Office is insisting on DIY lock change evictions of asylum seekers without due process or a court order.

In its own defences, Serco appears to be passing responsibility to the Home Office. Serco appears to be claiming it is not covered by the Human Rights Act, that the landlord only gets paid while s. 4 or s.95 Support is in place and that it’s the Home Office’s responsibility; for a third of people affected who have refugee status or leave to remain they argue they aren’t entitled to be accommodated by Serco and this is a matter for Glasgow City Council.

Mike Dailly, solicitor advocate with the Govan Law Centre, said: “The UK Home Department has asserted in Court of Session proceedings that Serco Group plc are entitled to evict Scottish asylum seekers by changing their locks and without the need for an independent tribunal to assess the proportionality and lawfulness of evictions. We believe that is wrong in Scots law, having regard to Scots common law and the Human Rights Act 1998.”

Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, the homelessness and human rights charity, added: “The UK Home Office’s position is morally reprehensible and unworkable. People have appeal rights. The idea that they are evicted without due legal process is abhorrent to any just and fair system of law.

“Serco’s stance wreaks of cowardice after the public outrage it endured from all of civic society three months ago against its plans to turn 330 refugees and asylum seekers out onto the streets of Glasgow. Scotland and Glasgow needs immigrants and refugees, and I believe we will win this, for the sake of all our rights.”

The Court of Session is expected to hear the case in in Edinburgh in early January 2019 over one or two days.

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