Pressure mounts on Serco to halt evictions
Hundreds of protesters are to unite in Glasgow’s Buchanan Street today in a bid to prevent up to 300 asylum seekers being evicted.
The protest comes as home secretary Sajid Javid was urged to intervene by Glasgow City Council and MPs who expressed “deep concern” that an imminent mass eviction of asylum seekers would trigger a humanitarian crisis in the city.
Serco, which manages a number of flats in the city housing asylum seekers and refugees, began changing the locks on premises after they were refused right to remain in the country by the Home Office.
But campaigners fear the move would put pressure on the city’s charities which won’t be able to cope with the pressure on their services the mass eviction will create.
In a letter to Javid, politicians and the council said Serco was creating a situation where the asylum seekers were put at risk of imminent harm.
Signed by the city council leader Susan Aitken, cross party councillors and seven Glasgow MPs, the letter says the eviction of failed asylum seekers by Serco is “far less likely to lead to their voluntarily leaving the UK than it is to their joining the city’s homeless and rough sleeper population … we hereby call on you, as home secretary, to instruct Serco to cease the lock change and eviction programme with immediate effect.”
The council is legally prevented from housing failed asylum seekers, while housing charities lack the capacity to help so many people, the letter says.
The Scottish Federation for Housing Associations (SFHA) condemned the move to evict the 300. It said Serco has been criticised in the past for poor practice in how it treats vulnerable tenants.
Chief executive Sally Thomas said: “We are concerned now that Serco is in danger of putting profit before people, failing to work within the spirit of the law, and letting down vulnerable households in the support and inadequate time they need to make alternative housing arrangements.
“We urge Serco to reflect on their plans and comply with the spirit as well as the letter of the law and work with relevant support organisations to make sure their work is done in a completely legal and humane way.”
We are concerned now that Serco is in danger of putting profit before people - Sally Thomas
A spokesman for the Home Office said: “While an asylum claim is outstanding, we would not be seeking removal. Even if an asylum claim has failed, we will provide accommodation for those who would otherwise be destitute and who are temporarily unable to leave the UK because of a practical or legal obstacle.
"However it is right that we prepare for someone’s removal if they do not have a lawful basis to stay in the UK and they are not pursuing an appeal.”
Protesters will assemble at the Concert Hall steps from 6pm today for the peaceful protest. Organisers said: “Serco, who are the private housing firm who deal with accommodation for refugees, have deployed beyond disgusting tactics to displace people from their homes.
“This display of a brutality is not the values of the citizens of Glasgow and we are urging people to join our protest against this mass eviction.”