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Serco’s plans to evict 300 asylum seekers onto the streets of Glasgow

Refugee homelessness charity, Positive Action in Housing, has condemned plans by Rupert Soames’ Serco group to evict 300 asylum seeker families and lone men and women, many of whom are fleeing war or persecution in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, onto the streets of Glasgow.
Robina Qureshi, Director of Positive Action in Housing, said:
“I have today condemned plans by Rupert Soames’ Serco group, a private landlord subcontracted by the Home Office, to evict 300 asylum seeker families and lone men and women, many of whom are fleeing war or persecution in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, onto the streets of Glasgow.
“We are appalled that Serco would carry out these actions against vulnerable refugees who endure interminable Home Office delays with their cases. I have urged Serco’s CEO, Rupert Soames, to desist from putting people onto the streets.
“I would also urge all social housing landlords who are leasing flats to Serco to challenge the UK Government’s hostile environment by preventing any evictions without court orders or coercion of vulnerable people to leave by SERCO turning up at people’s doors or carrying out lock changes in social housing stock leased to SERCO.
“At this time, we we are trying to establish – and I have written to Rupert Soames in the early hours but still no answer –  is whether in one week, refused asylum seekers will face legal proceedings through the courts or whether Serco plans to change locks systematically of all 300 without a court order. If it is the latter then we have a major problem, it would be helpful if Glasgow housing associations who have leased properties to Serco assert with their contact in SERCO that no illegal evictions can take place in social housing properties, i.e. without sheriff court orders, given the draconian measures that are being proposed.
“We have been told by several Serco residents that they have considered suicide. It is a chilling reminder of the triple suicide of an asylum seeking couple and their son in Glasgow’s Red Road flats in 2010, on the day they were told they had to get out of their Home Office flat. To avoid lock changes, some Serco residents have stopped going to college or leaving their flats to buy milk or bread. We are talking about families, children, the elderly, the disabled, lone women and men.
“This is the hostile environment on Scottish soil against war refugees, many from Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, and Afghanistan, who endure systematic cruelty at the hands of an asylum system that fast tracks them into “refused” asylum status, then leaves them destitute. It needs to be remembered that many of the asylum seekers that Serco intends to evict are pursuing their legal cases and have their decisions overturned on appeal. Destitution is a cheap way for the UK government not to support the vulnerable in our society, and create an underclass of exploited, invisible human beings with no purpose or hope.
“There are several questions that must be asked:
  1. To Rupert Soames, CEO of Serco: Our question about his “Move On “plan is “Where are people meant to move onto?
  2. Evictions without court orders are illegal under Scots law. Is Serco going to pursue due legal process i.e. a court order to evict or will Serco residents be locked out or coerced into leaving without court orders over the coming weeks. SERCO has previously stated they would pursue court orders which gives people time to get their cases dealt with. Are they now going back on their word? (As Mike dailly of Govan law centre said: “While Serco are considering s.23 of 1984 Act, asylum seekers have occupancy agreements and s.22(5) should apply”).
  3. To Kevin Stewart MSP, the Scottish housing minister: What is his position in this matter? Serco is a major landlord, with 5,000 residents in its accommodation. Are vulnerable asylum seekers to be evicted onto the streets of Glasgow, without a court order?  Eviction without a court order is against Scots law as housing is a devolved matter. Does this hold true for asylum seekers or can a major landlord in Glasgow evict without court order?
  4. Crucially, Will Police Scotland protect asylum seekers if they are forced out of their homes by Serco staff without a court order? Or will Police Scotland be on the side of Serco if they attempt to evict without a court order? If so, what does an eviction without court order look like? If people are dragged out physically by Serco Staff, is that assault or eviction? Will Police Scotland help asylum seekers being evicted without a court order, or will they stand by and let Serco staff drag people out physically? These are legitimate questions that need answering”
Finally, we have launched an emergency appeal in aid of 300 asylum seeker families and lone men and women, many fleeing war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, who are to be made destitute in Glasgow by SERCO. Such an  action places added pressure on Positive Action in Housing’s Emergency Relief Fund which provides crisis grants and arranges free shelter through our Room for Refugees Network. Genuine Refugees endure systematic cruelty at the hands of an asylum system that fast tracks them into “refused” asylum status, then leaves them destitute. Please donate if you can and see the figures below on the crisis support we are currently providing.

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  1. Glasgow has the highest asylum population in the UK as a result of the UK’s forced dispersal policy.
  2. SERCO houses 5,000 asylum seekers in Glasgow alone, in SERCO eviction letters, Positive Action in Housing is named as the first “go to” organisations for people being made destitute.
  3. Many of the asylum seekers whom Serco intends to evict are pursuing their legal cases and will have their decisions overturned on appeal. They are not failed asylum seekers, the majority are war refugees whose cases have been dragged out by the Home Office. Consider the case of the Glasgow Hunger strike family, the kamil’s, who were handed leave to remain within hours of announcing a hunger strike bewcause the home office feared embarrassing headlines about their 18 year wait for a decision on their case.
  4. In 2017-18, Positive Action in Housing provided emergency crisis support and shelter to 1,400 asylum seeking families and individuals. At any one time we provide shelter through Room for Refugees to 70-100 families or individuals each night in the homes of volunteer “hosts”.We arranged 45,000 continuous nights of shelter in the homes of volunteers through our room for refugees Network. We distributed £62K of crisis grants to those at risk.
  5. Glasgow has the highest asylum seeking population in the UK as a result of the UK government’s forced dispersal policy since 2000.
  6. Anyone facing destitution can be referred to Room for Refugees for temporary free shelter with our hosts by calling 01413532220 or their caseworker can make a formal referral, for more info see roomforrefugees.com.
  7. DONATIONS NEEDED TO SUPPORT THOSE BEING EVICTED: we have launched an emergency appeal in aid of the 300 asylum seeker families and lone men and women, many fleeing war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, who are to be made destitute in Glasgow by SERCO, a private landlord subcontracted by the Home Office. Such an  action places added pressure on Positive Action in Housing’s Emergency Relief Fund which provides crisis grants and arranges free shelter through our Room for Refugees Network. Genuine Refugees endure systematic cruelty at the hands of an asylum system that fast tracks them into “refused” asylum status, then leaves them destitute.
  8. Glasgow HOSTS NEEDED – To address this current crisis, we desperately need more volunteers to come forward to offer a spare room in their home, or an empty property, please register your offer at www.tinyurl.com.sparerooms
  9. The refugee crisis has not gone away. Please support our crisis prevention work by giving a regular donation here www.positiveactionh.org/donate
  10. NEWS ARTICLES, SEE ALSO:
    1. Daily Record Article https://news.google.com/articles/CAIiEN7z9YTzh7FI3tnsgIUt9zcqGQgEKhAIACoHCAowrueiCTDmn7gCMKXUtwU?hl=en-GB&gl=GB&ceid=GB%3Aen
    2. Scotsman: https://www.scotsman.com/news/msp-blasts-scandalous-plans-to-change-locks-on-asylum-seekers-homes-1-477549
    3. Sunday Herald: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16384920.glasgow-blindsided-as-destitute-refugees-face-mass-evictions
    4. http://www.paih.org/sercos-plans-to-evict-300-asylum-seekers-onto-the-streets-of-glasgow/
    5. Facebook https://www.facebook.com/PositiveActionH/?hc_ref=ARTx6WcPld75G4mc3W1cJZS9AIm1x4ovG-W-S49QRNPTnnokGdHVDArrTafGFryoeD8&fref=nf