Serco begins asylum seeker lock-change evictions in Glasgow

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The threatened evictions sparked protests in Glasgow last summer

A mass eviction of asylum seekers in Glasgow has begun as part of a housing provider's lock-changing programme.

Serco, which provides free housing to about 300 asylum seekers in the city, first announced that it was issuing eviction notices last July.

The Scottish Refugee Council have now been contacted by two men who say their locks have been changed.

The Scottish government has written to the new Home Secretary calling for her to intervene in the mass eviction.

Communities and local government secretary Aileen Campbell urged Priti Patel to ensure people who reach the end of the asylum process are not left destitute, adding that the ongoing legal action should be allowed to reach its conclusion.

Ms Campbell wrote: "Over the past year, I and many others have repeatedly made clear that it is not acceptable for people at the end of the asylum process to be made destitute and homeless in a country where they have sought refuge."

Law firms are in the process of challenging the Scottish courts on whether such evictions are lawful.

Glasgow City Council's leader Susan Aitken warned the move could lead to a "humanitarian crisis" - and urged the new minister for immigration to intervene.

Image caption,
A protest against the lock-change evictions was held on Buchanan Street

Susan Aitken said: "I remain deeply concerned about the impact of lock changes and a UK government policy which both demands its contractors force people from their homes and simultaneously prevents local agencies from helping those facing destitution.

"We have, repeatedly, raised these concerns with the government and sought its support in averting the potential humanitarian crisis that will unfold if hundreds of people are made homeless on the streets of Glasgow with no right to even the most basic state assistance.

"Glasgow has benefited from immigration and its involvement in the dispersal program. However, these inhumane practices are against the express wishes and values not only of the council, but also the citizens and communities we serve."

In July a number of refugee and housing charities urged Serco to hold off action until legal proceedings had concluded.

It came after Serco announced it would restart the controversial policy, which it described as its "Move On Protocol". It said no more than 30 people would be issued with eviction notices in a week.

However a spokesman for Serco told BBC Scotland the firm would not budge from their timetable.

Almost all evictions are of single adult men and women. Serco said "no children will be left without housing".

'Stop spreading fear'

The Guardian reports the Scottish Refugee Council have been contacted by two men whose locks were changed and their property removed from their accommodation by Serco.

One of the men, Ahmed, is a 33-year-old Syrian who came by lorry to the UK in 2011 and has received a notice to quit letter from Serco.

He said: "I have no idea what I would do next. There are so many other people suffering like this too."

Image caption,
Serco has sent out letters to some people giving them notice to leave their accommodation

A spokesperson for the Scottish Refugee Council tweeted: "Until this question is settled and the Scottish courts rule definitively on this, we urge Serco to stop these evictions right now.

"Stop spreading fear and anxiety in Glasgow. People have enough to cope with."

Shelter Scotland are also working with the coalition of charities and solicitors to challenge Serco's policy - the charity's director Graeme Browne urged anyone threatened with lock changes to come forward.

He added: "We're talking about a group of people who don't have access to homelessness services and who will become destitute if locked out of their homes.

"This should stop until the legal challenges are heard."

Legal challenge

In April a legal challenge arguing that evictions would be unlawful without a court order was dismissed by a judge.

Govan Law Centre is supporting an appeal of the decision and has called for the evictions to be suspended in the meantime.

According to the firm, which is representing a number of asylum seekers against Serco, 38 interim interdicts have been granted - which temporarily prevents eviction.

The firm described the current landscape of asylum claims as a "hostile environment".

Earlier this year it was also revealed that Serco had lost the Home Office contract in Scotland, which will be delivered by Mears Group after September.

Serco claims it costs about £1m a year to support people who remain in their properties after having their asylum claims rejected.

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