Lock-changes for asylum seekers put on hold

5 August 2018, 06:35

Keys

Serco has announced it will pause plans to issue lock-change orders to tenants whose application for asylum has been refused ahead of a court challenge.

A legal team at Shelter Scotland, representing two of the asylum seekers facing eviction, is expected to present papers to Glasgow Sheriff Court on Monday to try to suspend the action.

It follows the latest of several demonstrations outside the Home Office building in Brand Street on Saturday, where around 100 people gathered for a peaceful protest backed by charity Positive Action in Housing, the Church of Scotland and Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees.

Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, described the evictions as "immoral, irresponsible and frankly dangerous".

Serco said it welcomed the clarity that anticipated legal challenge would bring.

In the meantime, the Home Office contractor announced it will extend the notice period by 21 days for six people currently subject to lock-change notices, allowing them time to prepare their representations or move out of their properties.

All further lock-change notices to other asylum seekers whose applications have been refused will be paused "whilst the law is being tested and clarified".

A Serco statement said of the legal challenge: "This should mean that all parties will get clarity as to how the law will apply to people who refuse to move on from the free accommodation provided to them whilst their claims for asylum are being adjudicated.

"We have strong legal advice that our approach is fully within the law, but we think it would be helpful for all interested parties to have the Courts confirm the position."

Serco, which provides accommodation and welfare for around 5,000 asylum seekers in Scotland, almost all of them in Glasgow, said it had been subjected to "pretty vile abuse" over recent days.

The company said that in Scotland, until now, it had chosen not to evict failed asylum seekers when their Home Office funding stopped, continuing to provide free accommodation for months and sometimes years.

But the number of people over-staying has almost doubled in a year - from 167 in August 2017 to around 330 currently, it said, and "at this level, we simply cannot afford to continue".

And with around 180 new asylum seekers arriving in Glasgow every month, the supply of suitable housing is "desperately tight", Serco said.

It added: "We commit that we will work energetically with Glasgow City Council, the Scottish Government, charities and the Home Office to ease the path of people as they move on at the end of their adjudication process."

Graeme Brown, director of housing charity Shelter Scotland, said: "Our legal team will be presenting papers to Glasgow Sheriff Court on Monday morning along with the legal services agency who act for a third individual to try and get interim orders that will prevent the lock changes threatened to our clients.

"Our clients are actively working with immigration lawyers to resolve their asylum claims. Interim orders temporarily stopping the lock changes will allow this work to continue with our clients having a home to live in."

Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken has made repeated calls to Home Secretary Sajid Javid to step in and halt the evictions.

The council is also examining whether it can extend its general power of welfare to help those who face having their locks changed, many of whom are young, single men.