Living Rent holds ‘lock-in’ to highlight council’s ‘failure’ to protect Glasgow asylum seekers

Tenants’ union Living Rent held a symbolic ‘lock-in’ at Glasgow City Council on Tuesday and sent a letter of demands urging the local authority to take responsibility for asylum seekers facing eviction via lock changes by Serco.

The union has called on the council to commit to housing those made homeless and vulnerable by the Home Office contractor’s lock-change regime. 

The letter has demanded that the council provides emergency accommodation to all affected individuals, including those that have received a right to remain status. It also requests that the council makes clear the timescale for the individual assessment of each person facing eviction.

Glasgow City Council set up an asylum seeker task force last year in an attempt to find alternative housing for asylum seekers; however, Living Rent said the council has blamed current legislation for the task force’s failure to do so.

In February, COSLA guidelines were published which revealed that public funds can be used for emergency accommodation and other local councils are known to provide it. This, according to the union, has revealed that Glasgow City Council has not fully explored supporting people it claims are being made destitute by Home Office policy.

Annmarie O’Donnell, chief executive of Glasgow City Council, has written to Living Rent claiming that “the task force is not able to make changes to the existing legislation, which would be required to meet some of your demands”.

However, COSLA guidance published in February 2019 said: “Scottish Local Government has a duty to safeguard the most vulnerable people in these situations, in many cases, this includes providing financial support to meet essential living costs and other help from social workers to avoid destitution.”

Patrick Harvie, MSP for the Scottish Greens has urged authorities to act on the urgency of the situation, and insisted “there is no blanket ban on using public funds to provide accommodation to asylum seekers who face destitution”.

Mr Harvie and Scottish Greens Cllr Kim Long joined a demonstration organised by the No Evictions Network and Living Rent Glasgow at the City Chambers.

Councillor Long said: “The asylum system itself is the root cause of this mess - it’s utterly dehumanising and allows the pursuit of private profit to be put ahead of basic human decency. It’s vital that Glasgow continues to tell the Home Office to change their broken system.

“But given that Boris Johnson is leading arguably the most right-wing UK government in living memory, which has already shown it is prepared to throw people’s rights and freedoms under its no deal Brexit bus, we must also do everything we can to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the city caused by widespread destitution.

“That’s why Greens have called repeatedly for the Council and Scottish Government to do what they’ve already committed to and guarantee an emergency housing safety net for anyone faced with eviction. This has to be a clear and unequivocal priority for the Council right now.”

With evictions of Serco tenants having already taken place, Living Rent is claiming that the city council has failed to properly respond to the crisis and therefore has delivered a letter outlining the following demands:

  1. For the council to set up an arrangement to provide emergency accommodation to all affected individuals, including those that have received a right to remain status.
  2. For the council to make clear the timescale for providing an individual assessment of each person facing eviction. 

Living Rent member, Jennifer Baird, said: “Private companies like Serco clearly aren’t interested in the welfare of those made vulnerable by a hostile immigration system. However, Glasgow City Council needs to take much more responsibility and find a genuine solution to prevent what they themselves have called a ‘humanitarian crisis’. If they don’t, it is certain that we’ll see these evictions happening again in the not so distant future.”

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