Glasgow & West Scotland

No asylum seeker evictions in Glasgow 'without a court order'

Protestors
Image caption The planned action by former housing provider Serco prompted protests in Glasgow last year

Asylum seekers living in Glasgow will no longer face eviction without a court order being issued, the new Home Office housing contractor has said.

The move will mean an end to proposed lock-change evictions which have sparked protests and a legal challenge.

Former housing provider Serco last year announced plans to evict 300 people refused the right to stay in the UK.

Its successor, Mears, said it would do everything to encourage people to "move on" well before the eviction stage.

The Home Office currently provides free, fully-furnished accommodation to asylum seekers while applications are being considered.

Asylum seekers who have already been told they cannot stay in the UK will continue to be housed by Serco, pending the outcome of legal challenges.

The new Mears deal was made with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) and Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF).

'A better way'

A Mears spokesman said it had agreed an approach for "move-on" at the end of the asylum application process "that best supports service users".

He added: "We would always hope to avoid a court order, as we believe there is a better way of supporting the service user.

"We will make sure that service users have access to advice and support, from the Home Office's AIRE contract provider Migrant Help, to reach the best outcome and we will notify the relevant local authority to enable the move-on process."

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Media captionGlasgow evictions protest at Home Office building in Govan

Polly Jones, head of policy at SFHA, said the group was delighted lock-change evictions would be replaced by "a clear and fair support package, where any decision to evict an asylum seeker must be approved first by a court".

She added: "Social landlords want to continue to provide much-needed accommodation to asylum seekers in Glasgow and this new contract ensures that will happen."

A legal challenge arguing that the evictions would be illegal without a court order was dismissed by a judge earlier this year, but is now being appealed against.

Serco's previous contract provided accommodation to about 5,000 people in Scotland, almost all of them in Glasgow.

'Sensitive issue'

The company, which had revenues of more than £2.8bn in 2018, claimed that people staying in properties without government funding were costing the housing provider an estimated £1m a year.

Its proposed lock-change policy triggered a series of protests in Glasgow, with campaigners backing 300 residents who had been refused refugee status.

GWSF director David Bookbinder welcomed the willingness of Mears "to take a fresh approach to the very difficult and sensitive issue".

He added: "It's important for housing associations to be confident that their homes are managed by the Home Office's contractor professionally and humanely."

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