Protest set over re-homing of asylum seekers in Glasgow

Image caption,
People of all ages joined the march in Glasgow

Hundreds of people protested in Glasgow over plans which could see asylum seekers in the city forced to leave temporary housing.

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) cancelled a contract with the city council to provide housing for asylum seekers after failing to agree on costs.

The charity, Positive Action in Housing, organised the demo outside the agency's Glasgow office.

UKBA said it wanted any moves to be handled as smoothly as possible.

It emerged earlier this month that the UKBA had cancelled the contract with Glasgow City Council after the two sides disagreed over the level of funding required to meet the asylum seekers' housing needs.

The local authority currently provides accommodation to 1,311 asylum seekers in 584 properties.

Linda Dempster, deputy director for the UK Border Agency in Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: "We share the city council's wish that these changes are handled sensitively taking full account of individual circumstances.

"We will continue to work closely with the council, who we met this week, to ensure the transition is handled as smoothly as possible and disruption is kept to a minimum."

Hundreds of families received letters warning that they may need to be re-homed by next February.

Robina Qureshi, director of the Positive Action in Housing, said: "The UKBA sent out those disgraceful letters to 600 families on 5 November - Guy Fawkes Day - and broke their hearts.

"We have now been informed of cases of two women being put into mental hospitals after breaking down when they received the removal letter.

"It should not be forgotten that on 7 March 2010, a Russian family of three committed suicide together after being sent a letter from the UK Borders Agency."

'Heavy burden'

Ms Qureshi pledged to support the "many asylum seekers" who had told her they would refuse to move

Archbishop Mario Conti, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, said in a letter that he would not be able to attend the protest but offered his support.

"The human cost of this decision is horrendous, and will involve children being uprooted from schools where they are flourishing, a return to the anguish of the unknown for people already bearing a heavy burden of fear and the wanton destruction of communities which have grown up in recent years as Glasgow has successfully welcomed asylum seekers and refugees," he said.

"There must be a solution to the financial issues behind this decision which does not involve such human suffering."

First Minister Alex Salmond said in a message of support: "I condemn in the strongest possible terms the nature of the letter that the asylum seekers received.

"I have constantly made it clear that asylum seekers should be welcomed and treated with respect and dignity in Scotland."

The Scottish government has no control over asylum, which is reserved to Westminster.

However, Mr Salmond added that he would make his views clear to the home secretary as well as urging the UK Border Agency and Glasgow City Council to reopen negotiations immediately.

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