A court appeal to determine the fate of refugees who have been threatened with eviction from their Glasgow homes is due to start this week.
Serco, the company in charge of accommodation for asylum seekers in Glasgow who have not been granted leave to remain by the Home Office, last month began a long-threatened mass eviction - changing the locks of refugees’ homes while they were out. The firm claims that it can no longer afford to house failed asylum claimants who are not entitled to work or receive benefits in the UK.
Now, the action, which had been threatened for more than a year, is being challenged in the courts by 41 asylum seekers who had previously been threatened with eviction by Serco and sought legal action.
A case heard in Edinburgh’s Court of Session in April ruled that the lock-change evictions were lawful. The appeal is now due to be heard from Wednesday at the court’s Outer House and comes alongside multiple successful challenges in the Sheriff Court which have temporarily prevented people being evicted in 60 cases until the issues raised in this case are resolved.
Protesters are set to congregate outside of the court on Wednesday. The case is expected to take at least two weeks.
The Scottish Refugee Council said it had been contacted by five people over the past month who had had their locks changed by Serco.
Chris Afuakwah, spokesman for the Scottish Refugee Council, said: “Wednesday’s demonstration in Edinburgh is a show of solidarity with those affected by lock-change evictions in Glasgow.
“We will be outside the Court of Session where the appeal in the case of Ali vs Serco and the Home Office is being heard. This case will decide whether lock-change evictions without a court order are lawful or not – although ongoing legal proceedings against them have not prevented Serco from evicting five individuals from their homes in the past few weeks.
He added: “Our caseworkers are meeting several people every day who have received lock-change notices, due to expire in the coming days. Over sixty people have had their eviction temporarily blocked by Glasgow Sheriff Court, but now lawyers cannot get interdicts heard fast enough before people’s eviction notices run out, and hundreds of people are at imminent risk of street homelessness.”
Refugees who have had an asylum claim rejected are expected to begin making steps to return home under the Home Office’s voluntary returns programme - however charities say that many do not have the financial means to do so - or do not feel safe in returning to their native country.
Glasgow City Council’s leader Susan Aitken recently warned that evictions could lead to a “humanitarian crisis”, while the Scottish Government has written to new Home Secretary Priti Patel, urging her to ensure that people who reach the end of the asylum process are not left destitute.
The Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) was last month granted leave to intervene in the continuing legal challenge – the first time it has used its power to intervene in civil litigation.
Serco earlier this year lost the Home Office contract in Scotland, which will be delivered by Mears Group from September.