Serco evictions begin as two asylum seekers locked out of Glasgow properties
Two people have been evicted from Serco properties in Glasgow as the private contractor began its mass lock-change policy on asylum seekers in the city.
Accommodation provider Serco announced in June that it would change the locks on properties as a means of evicting people whose claims for refugee protection have been refused, making up to 300 people immediately homeless.
Lawyers are questioning the lawfulness of such evictions which are being carried out without court orders and a series of interim interdicts have been secured by law centres, advice agencies and charities.
However, the Scottish Refugee Council said it had been contacted by two men who were made homeless after the locks were changed at their accommodation and their property removed by Serco last week. In both cases, the men left the properties temporarily and returned to find the locks changed and their belongings removed.
The charity said its advisers are working with law firms and other charities to support the two individuals and others who may be at risk.
Graham O’Neill, policy manager at Scottish Refugee Council, said: “This is a really dire, really grave situation. The law in Scotland requires landlords to seek a court order before evicting people from their properties. This vital safeguard gives people time to challenge any potential eviction and avoid the type of crisis situation we are seeing this week where people are locked out on the street.
“We know that two law firms are challenging the lawfulness of these lock change evictions in the Scottish courts. Until there is a final ruling on this we urge Serco to stop making people homeless and stop spreading fear and anxiety among people seeking refugee protection in Scotland.
“We urge anyone who is worried about their Serco accommodation or who knows anyone who might be at risk of eviction to contact Scottish Refugee Council straight away. We run free legal advice sessions where people can find out about their rights. Please call our helpline on 0141 223 7979.
“The men and women living in Serco accommodation are here because their lives are at risk in their home countries. People who have been refused refugee protection by the UK Government are not allowed to work or apply for benefits and have no means to support themselves. Making people in this situation street homeless is absolutely unacceptable and will create a completely avoidable crisis for people who have already lived through significant trauma.”
Since Serco announced its eviction plans last month, Glasgow sheriff court has provided around forty people at risk of eviction with short term interdicts, barring Serco from evicting them for a temporary period.
Earlier this month, a coalition of charities urged Serco to bring an end to its lock-change evictions until the legality of the action is clarified in law.
New Gorbals Housing Association then promised to reverse any attempt by Serco to change locks on its properties.
The Scottish Government has written to the new home secretary, Priti Patel, asking her to intervene to ensure that people who reach the end of the asylum process are not left destitute.
Communities and local government secretary Aileen Campbell wrote: “Over the past year, I and many others have repeatedly made clear that it is not acceptable for people at the end of the asylum process to be made destitute and homeless in a country where they have sought refuge.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Where an asylum claim has been refused and someone has no right to remain in the UK, it is right that they should take steps to leave. Together with charities, we have engaged with every individual affected over a number of months to provide advice and guidance on the support available and the voluntary returns process.”
Positive Action in Housing is providing an emergency response service for people facing evictions. Anyone facing eviction, or their adviser, is advised to call 0141 353 2220.
The charity also runs a scheme, Room for Refugees, to offer refugees a place to stay if they no longer have recourse to public funds.
If you live in Glasgow and have a spare room, you can register at www.roomforrefugees.com and Positive Action in Housing will contact you to match you with someone who would otherwise be destitute and homeless.
Positive Action in Housing has also launched an emergency appeal to help support people who are affected.