‘Lock changes need permission’, Maryhill Housing tells Serco

Maryhill Housing Association has joined the growing list of Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) frustrating the planned evictions of over 300 asylum seekers in Glasgow by telling Serco that it cannot change its locks without consent.

The Home Office contractor had issued lock-change orders to tenants refused asylum in the UK, though this action has been temporarily paused ahead of a court challenge following pressure from campaigners and charities.

A campaign led by Positive Action in Housing to raise awareness among housing associations across Glasgow who let properties to Serco saw a number of quick responses, with many associations writing to Serco refusing permission to change locks as well as agreeing to offer support to families involved.

Now Maryhill Housing, which rents property to Serco, has said the company would be in breach of contract if it made unauthorised changes to fixtures and fittings.

A spokesperson for Mayhill Housing told Scottish Housing News: “Maryhill Housing shares the concern expressed by others about this situation and the serious negative impact the proposed actions would have on the individuals affected.

“We have formally written to Serco to remind them that under the terms of their lease agreement with the Association, it cannot alter fixtures and fittings (including changing locks) without the Association’s consent which has not been provided.

“Maryhill Housing has also pledged financial support to the Positive Action appeal and written to key agencies including Glasgow City Council and Positive Action to offer our assistance in any way we can.”

Meanwhile the leader of Glasgow City Council yesterday met UK immigration minister Caroline Nokes and called for an end to the UK government’s controversial asylum seekers’ lock changing policy.

Councillor Susan Aitken said: “We had a constructive meeting which followed previous conversations between myself and the Minister and ongoing engagement between Glasgow City Council and Home Office officials.

“The city government has significant differences with the UK government on wider asylum issues, but today was focused on the implications of the lock changing policy, and on wider operational matters in relation to the dispersal programme.

“While it is helpful that Serco has paused the lock change programme, what we are seeking is an end to lock changing regardless of the outcome of any imminent court actions.

“Until then there are other changes the Home Office can make and we also discussed the need for protocols for sharing data on those seeking asylum and where they are in the process. There is currently little clarity about the actual status of the 330 people affected, therefore it is essential that Glasgow City Council has the time and opportunity to carry out individual assessments for all of them and ensure that everyone gets the right support and outcome for their circumstances.

“The minister agreed this was necessary and her officers have committed to engaging constructively with us to ensure this is put in place.

“Ms Nokes and her officials have been left in no doubt that lock changes and evictions are not good for anyone, and do not have support within the city. Whilst she was unable to give a guarantee that they would not continue, we have made significant progress. However we will continue to join with partners across the city to campaign for this policy to be changed.”

Positive Action in Housing is now urging people to sign a petition against Serco’s mass eviction.

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