Asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow are again under threat of eviction by their landlord, outsourcing firm Serco.
The company announced on Wednesday that it will begin changing locks on the properties the 300 people affected live in. The first 30 lock-change notices—which give people 21 days warning of eviction—will be issued next week.
After this, up to 30 people a week will be made homeless as the company jettisons its responsibility to house people.
Charities have slammed the latest threat, and Glasgow city council leader Susan Aitken has said it will lead to “mass destitution”.
Stand Up To Racism Scotland also condemned the move.
Serco’s move comes after the Home Office took the decision not to renew the firm’s contract to house the people affected. From September the contract will be taken over by the Mears Group housing company.
Rather than liaise with the new provider to transfer the management of the accommodation, for Serco the logical decision was to kick people onto the streets.
The firm has made £150,000 available to homeless charities in Glasgow to rehouse people in the interim. But this is not enough, and the charities were not made aware in advance according to Annika Joy of the Glasgow Night Shelter for Destitute Asylum Seekers.
Serco’s chief executive Rupert Soames—grandson of Winston Churchill and brother of Tory MP Nicholas Soames—had a total pay package of £2.217 million in 2016.
"We very much regret the distress this will cause, but hope that it will be understood that we cannot be expected to provide free housing indefinitely to hundreds of people who have been unsuccessful in their asylum claims and most of whom have no legal right to remain in the UK,” said Serco managing director for immigration Julia Rogers.
Robina Qureshi, director of the Positive Action in Housing migrant solidarity organisation, said, “We are shocked by the latest move by Serco to resume lock change evictions.
“Rupert Soames and Serco agreed publicly that they would not take any immediate action to evict after a Court of Session judgement 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. Both refugees and asylum seekers have been intimidated into leaving their accommodation by Serco sending out ‘eviction letters’.”
Two of the people affected mounted a legal challenge against the evictions through the Govan Law Centre. They argued that the evictions were illegal without a court order.
In April a judge dismissed this case. Now an appeal against this decision has been mounted.
Charities are arguing that no evictions should take place until the appeal is decided on 1 July.
It is a mark of shame on both the immigration and housing systems that people go through all the trauma of asylum claims and then can be evicted because a private company loses a government contract.