UK government must stop the eviction of asylum seekers in Glasgow

The past week has been a rollercoaster for around 300 asylum seekers in Glasgow who were told by a private housing provider that they faced eviction because they had been refused asylum.

The move by the contractors Serco – who have a direct contract with the Home Office for the provision of accommodation – has rightly caused outrage in Glasgow and led to a public demonstration on Buchanan Street.

At the time of writing this, Serco have said they will “pause” issuing lock-change orders and they would not begin enforcing them until on-going court action clarified the position.

This is a welcome move. It’s a climb down – albeit a temporary one – after public pressure from campaigners.

People were rightly outraged when Serco announced they would start evicting asylum seekers who had not been granted refugee status by the UK Home Office. Even though Glasgow is a dispersal city, the council do not receive any funds from the Home Office – unlike English councils.

These people are extremely vulnerable.

Many of them came to Scotland fleeing persecution. They are often isolated and afraid, with no support network or friends or family that they can rely on. Many of them do not speak English, have no money or contacts, and nowhere to go.

Yet Glasgow City Council are legally unable to help them directly with accommodation or funds. That is another Home Office rule. My colleague, the SNP Leader of Glasgow City Council, Susan Aitken, is right to warn of a “humanitarian disaster” in the city.

Susan was also right to demand that the Home Secretary tells Serco to stop the threat of evictions with immediate effect and work with the council to ensure this can never happen again.

Companies who bid for these contracts with the UK Government are obliged to protect the vulnerable and to keep service users safe. Changing locks on people’s accommodation and threatening to make them destitute is inexcusable.

But while the Home Office refuse to fund either the council or Serco, it is the people living in fear of the possibility of being kicked out on to the street that are left in limbo and at risk.

This cannot and must not go ahead.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has a letter from Glasgow City councillors and Members of Parliament across the political parties, asking him to instruct Serco to reverse this policy without delay. He needs to do that and solve this problem for the long term by starting to fund Scottish local authorities in the same way as he does down south.

If he doesn’t, I have no doubt the people of Glasgow will continue to stand up for these vulnerable people to ensure these mass evictions do not go ahead.