Serco lock-change challenge dismissed by Court of Session
Campaigners have raised fears over a fresh wave of asylum seeker evictions after a legal bid to prevent failed asylum seekers being evicted without a court order was dismissed by Scotland’s highest court.
The case against the Home Office and its contractor Serco was launched in the name of two women in Glasgow who were told their locks would be changed.
The private housing provider’s plans to evict more than 300 asylum seekers in Glasgow brought pressure from campaigners and charities, including a number of city-based housing associations. It was then forced to temporarily pause the action head of the court challenge.
However the Court of Session ruled on Friday that it would not be taking any more action on the procedure, described by Serco as its “Move On Protocol”.
In a 29-page opinion by Lord Tyre, the judge concluded: “I am satisfied that neither of the pursuers has made out a relevant case for any of the orders sought.”
Robina Qureshi, director of refugee homelessness charity Positive Action In Housing, said she had “no doubt” lock-changes would start up again, and raised concerns “it’s going to be worse”.
She said: “Lock-change evictions without court orders look to be the norm in Glasgow for the next 10 years, which is all part of the UK Government’s hostile environment policy. Serco can safely resume lock changes without court orders or due process. There is no protection for refugee families and individuals.
“Glasgow is therefore set to see an increased number of destitute refugees and asylum seekers in the coming weeks and months while Serco profits from the misery of asylum seekers, as a result of the Court of Session judgment.”
Graham O’Neill, policy officer at the Scottish Refugee Council, said: “People in Scotland are protected from summary eviction and immediate homelessness under mainstream Scots housing law. But today’s ruling states that a whole group of men and women are outside this protection, denying them the same rights as everyone else in Scotland.”
Govan Law Centre said it was “very disappointed” for its clients.
Solicitor advocate Mike Dailly said, following the court ruling, “any asylum seeker threatened with a lock-change eviction in Scotland will need to challenge that decision by lodging an urgent appeal to the First Tier Immigration Tribunal”.
He added: “The practicalities of people being able to do so are challenging and not always straight-forward, and Govan Law Centre hopes to explore these serious challenges with partner agencies in Glasgow.”
Mr Dailly said it will still be necessary for people to first ask the Home Office for continued support and accommodation but if that is refused then it will be necessary to appeal.
A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “We will obviously need to take the appropriate time to consider a complex judgement - and to understand if there is likely to be any appeal.
“We now want to talk with Serco, the Home Office and third sector partners to work through any implications of the decision.”
A Serco spokesman welcomed the judgment.
He said: “Serco will not be taking any immediate action as a consequence of this decision, but will now discuss with the Home Office, Glasgow City Council and our other partners how best to proceed, given that there continues to be a very significant number of people in Glasgow whose claim for asylum has been refused by the UK Government and who are continuing to receive the benefit of free accommodation, paid for by Serco, some for months, even years.”