On 20th August 2019, Scottish Refugee Council staff, volunteers and supporters attended Glasgow Living Rent and the No Evictions Campaign’s demonstration outside Glasgow City Council.

During the protest, Councillor Kim Long delivered a letter to Susan Aitken, requesting that emergency accommodation be provided for people made homeless by Serco and the Home Office’s lock-change policy.

Nobody should be homeless. We must resist the normalisation of street homelessness. The Home Office have designed a system that consigns vulnerable individuals into destitution. 

Here in Glasgow, we are seeing the brutal face of this system. Serco operate in a “rule of law” vacuum, whereby the Home Office defer responsibility for a vulnerable group of people to a profit-driven private company. The reality of this situation is that people are, tonight, being rendered street homeless through forced lock changes, all with no court oversight or orders.

Aside from being immoral and inhumane, these lock-change evictions may also be unlawful, as the matter has not been clarified definitively in law.

Graham O’Neill, our Policy Manager says:

“The accommodation issue is one that we have been prioritising for years. The Scottish Government is currently developing its anti-destitution strategy, which we anticipate in a few months. We fully expect practical and funded partnership pilots based on accommodation for those at risk or who have been rendered destitute by the UK asylum system. That strategy will be underpinned by its Ending Homelessness Together work.

“We have additionally been working with Glasgow City Council on their accommodation strategies to include refugees and asylum seekers, and welcome the inclusion of refused asylum seekers in it. But, we all agree that what is needed is practical action based, critically, on partnership between the sectors and communities in the city. 

“All local authorities do have significant restrictions on what they can do for people who have been refused asylum, due to the hostile environment’s No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) immigration rules. These rules prevent the use of certain and important public funds in supporting destitute asylum seekers.”

“However, as the Glasgow Asylum Taskforce rightly recognised, there is no general prohibition on the use of public funds to assist those with NRPF conditions on them.”

“Glasgow City Council has recognised this fact over the years and donated public resources – such as the premises for Glasgow Night Shelter for Destitute Asylum Seekers, and the future multi-services hub. The Night Shelter can only host 22 men, however, and with an imminent crisis of 300 additional destitute people on our streets, it is not a sufficient provision. We need together to accelerate our work based on actual provision of safe and dignified accommodation.  “

“This accommodation-based work can be achieved lawfully, and we must push forward together as a city, and quickly. At this stage, people’s lives are at stake.”

On Wednesday 28th August, a demonstration will be held outside the Court of Sessions in Edinburgh, to acknowledge the case of Ali vs Serco and the Home Office, which will ultimately decide whether lock-change evictions without court orders are lawful. More details to follow shortly.

Chris Pettigrew
Author: Chris Pettigrew