Charities voice ‘outrage’ at Serco lock-change plans
Charities have expressed “outrage” at news that around 300 asylum seekers are to be evicted from their current homes.
Serco, which provides the housing arrangement in Glasgow, first announced it was issuing notices to tenants who had been denied the right to remain in the UK last July.
However on Wednesday it was confirmed the lock-changing programme would begin in a matter of weeks, phased out over the next four months.
Graham O’Neill, Scottish Refugee Council policy manager, said: “We are outraged at Serco’s plan to initiate lock-change evictions in the coming weeks and months.
“For hundreds of men and women in Glasgow, this will mean forced eviction from their only source of accommodation and safety in Scotland.
“Serco have announced their intention to make 30 people a week street homeless. The consequences of these evictions are clear: extreme human suffering on a mass scale with all the immediate adverse health and exploitation risks that ensue.
“Serco and the Home Office are aware of several ongoing legal challenges against the lock-change policy. Scots legal process has not been exhausted and we don’t believe the law in this regard has been definitively clarified.
“Once again, the agencies that work daily with people refused refugee protection, often on the back of Home Office decisions overturned on appeal, knew nothing about this plan.
“Once again their public announcement has spread fear and anxiety among refugee communities.”
Robina Qureshi, Positive Action in Housing director, said: “We are shocked by the latest move by Serco to resume lock-change evictions.
“Rupert Soames [Serco CEO] and Serco agreed publicly that they would not take any immediate action to evict after the Court of Session judgment last month, and would consult with ‘key partners’.
“Neither of these happened, in fact since April 2019, asylum seekers have come into our office in Glasgow with letters telling them to leave their accommodation immediately.”
She also questioned how the programme would be carried out, saying: “We are also extremely concerned, in the absence of a structured eviction process with a sheriff officer attending, what these lock-change evictions look like.
“Are people going to be dragged out with their belongings dumped in the street? There is no procedure.
“Anecdotal evidence tells us that vulnerable, frightened people, both men and women, will be man handled on to the street. Our advice is to refuse to leave so that they can appeal to the first tier tribunal as per the Court of Session’s advice.”
Fiona McPhail, Shelter Scotland principal solicitor, said: “Shelter Scotland is hugely disappointed at Serco’s statement that they will roll-out their lock-change programme within the next four months, notwithstanding ongoing legal challenges to the lawfulness of the policy.
“In August 2018, Serco publicly undertook to pause all lock changes until the law was clarified.
“Shelter Scotland firmly believes that lock changes are illegal without a court order, with the court still to fully determine all legal arguments in the ongoing actions.
“We are very concerned about the impact of the lock-change programme which will place up to 30 people per week at risk of homelessness and destitution.
“Shelter Scotland will continue to provide legal advice to individuals at risk of a lock change, in partnership with other legal and asylum support charities through legal surgeries hosted by the Scottish Refugee Council.”
In a statement, Serco said it will make up to £150,000 available to charities supporting homeless people in Glasgow.