Hundreds of asylum seekers face new threat of eviction in Glasgow

Hundreds of failed asylum seekers living in Glasgow face a new threat of eviction after an outsourcing company announced it would hand back properties under its care to their owners.

A protest outside a Serco office in Glasgow last year after the company announced its programme of lock-changing properties housing failed asylum seekers
A protest outside a Serco office in Glasgow last year after the company announced its programme of lock-changing properties housing failed asylum seekers

Serco said it would change the locks on around 300 homes in the city as its contract with the UK Government to provide free accommodation to those claiming asylum comes to an end later this year.

The corporate giant first announced the programme of works last summer but it was delayed after it faced a backlash from politicians and charities as well as a legal challenge from two asylum seekers.

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Serco said it was informed in January by the Home Office that it had been unsuccessful in its bid to supply accommodation for asylum seekers in Scoltand from 2019 onwards.

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In a statement today, the company said: "By the end of September 2019 we will no longer have any people providing housing services in Glasgow, neither will we have a license to provide accommodation.

"Accordingly, in the coming months we are going to return all the housing we rent in Glasgow to its owners at the end of the leases. We will therefore be restarting our lock-changing programme so that properties may be returned to their owners with vacant possession in accordance with our contractual obligations."

The lock-change programme is to be rolled out in a phased manner over the next four months, with no more than 30 people being issued with notices in any one week, the company said.

Most of those affected are single men or women. No children will be left homeless, Serco added.

Glasgow City Council is prevented by law from offering assistance to asylum seekers who have exhausted all legal avenues to remain in the UK, except for in exceptional circumstances.

Council leader Susan Aitken has written to UK immigration minister Caroline Noakes to voice her concern at Serco's plans.

"This is a deeply concerning development," she wrote. "In order for Glasgow City Council to provide support I would have to instruct them to break the law.

"It is a sorry and utterly unacceptable state of affairs when a UK Government contract legally obliges its contractor to force people from their homes and leave public servants to choose between either breaking the law or allowing mass destitution on the streets of our city.

She continued: "I therefore ask you once again that as minister for immigration, you intervene, firstly to prevent these planned evictions from taking place and, secondly, to prevent future repetition of this situation."

Scottish Government communities secretary Aileen Campbell called on the Home Office “to live up to its responsibilities” and find a long-term solution for asylum seekers that would not “leave them destitute and homeless”.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The Home Office takes the wellbeing of asylum seekers and the local communities in which they live extremely seriously.

“We have and will continue to work closely with local authorities and partners to ensure that those who have no right to be in the UK leave their accommodation in a safe and secure way.

“We have been working with Glasgow City Council and other partners to ensure those at risk of potential eviction have the necessary advice on their options.”