Response to Serco decision to resume lock changes

12 June 2019

For immediate release

A meeting to discuss the SERCO evictions will take place in Positive Action in Housing’s offices tomorrow Thursday 13 June 2019. To request attendance please email

In response to SERCO’s press statement that it will resume lock change evictions against “asylum seekers”, and lock out 30 people a week, Robina Qureshi, Director said:

“We are shocked by the latest move by SERCO to resume lock change evictions.

“Rupert Soames and SERCO agreed publicly that they would not take any immediate action to evict after the Court of Session judgement last month, and would consult with “key partners”. Neither of these happened, in fact, since April 2019, asylum seekers have come into our office in Glasgow with letters telling them to leave their accommodation immediately. Both refugees and asylum seekers  have been intimidated into leaving their accommodation by SERCO sending out “eviction letters”.

“We are also extremely concerned, in the absence of a structured eviction process with a sheriff officer attending, what these lock change evictions look like. Are people going to be dragged out with their belongings dumped in the street? there is no procedure. Anecdotal evidence tells us that vulnerable, frightened people, both men and women, will be man handled onto the street. Our advice is to refuse to leave so that they can appeal to the first tier tribunal as per the court of Session’s advice.

“Furthermore, an appeal is lodged with the Court of Session by Govan Law Centre, the hearing took place on June 10th 2019. The decision will be known on July 1 2019. We are calling on Serco to suspend these evictions pending the Court of Session appeal.

“While we appreciate that SERCO may not have received Home Office funding, we are talking about very vulnerable individuals often with severe mental health issues, who’s only alternative is destitution. SERCO keeps referring to phased lock changes, whereby 30 people a week will be turned out onto the streets of Glasgow, so with in the next 21/2 months we will see at least 300 people being made totally destitute, some of whom will beg other asylum seekers to take them in thereby risking their own accommodation. Furthermore, our charity will face an increased demand from destitute people seeking  emergency grants and spare rooms in the homes of our volunteers hosts through Room for refugees. We are also dealing with very vulnerable people, both men and women who have severe mental health problems.”

Appendix 1 – Advice for asylum seekers facing eviction below

Appendix 2 – Serco Statement

See also Govan law centre statement 

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Dear {client},

Here are your options, in order to try to avoid threats from Serco.


  1. If you have received eviction letters or an “information letter” from Serco, please make an emergency appointment to see our destitution casework team by calling 0141 353 2220. Tell the person you speak to that you have received a letter from SERCO telling to leave your home.
  2. We will write to Serco on your behalf, and tell them we represent you, and ask them to STOP threatening and intimidating you and asylum seekers whose support is stopped without giving you time to seek legal recourse through the First Tier Immigration Tribunal.
  3. If you wish, we will also complain to Police Scotland and explain that you feel intimidated and placed in a state of fear and alarm within your own home because of these letters telling you to leave now without giving you time to seek legal recourse through the First Tier Immigration Tribunal.
  4. We will look at your options for an appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal, which is your legal right under Scots Law.
  5. We will contact the landlord from whom Serco is renting your flat to ask them to oppose any lock changes on the property.
  6. We will help you look at your options for Section 4 support and fresh claim submissions.


  1. A copy of the eviction notice or “information letter” from SERCO
  2. The occupancy agreement
  3. Legal documents about your asylum claim
  4. Medical papers expressing special needs (if applicable)
  5. IDs of all members of the household


The Govan Law Centre has lodged an appeal to Scotland’s highest court – the Court of Session – to stop SERCO from carrying out lock change evictions

Appendix 2

Update on the status of accommodation being provided by Serco to

former Asylum Seekers in Glasgow

Wednesday 12 June

  • Programme to return properties to owners to start in coming weeks
  • Serco to donate £150,000 to support charities caring for homeless in Glasgow

Serco is currently contracted by the Home Office to provide housing and support services for asylum seekers in Scotland. We are also, and at our own expense, providing free housing to several hundred former asylum seekers who have had their asylum claims refused and who no longer receive Government funding towards their housing. We have been advised by the Home Office that most of these people have exhausted all avenues of appeal and no longer have the right to remain in the UK. Notwithstanding their legal status, in recent years we have not always insisted people leave their properties when their Government support stops, in order that they have some time to make alternative arrangements. This pro bono support has been costing Serco around £1M per year.

About a year ago it became clear that our approach was not sustainable, as the numbers of people refusing to move on, and the length of time they were staying, was increasing rapidly. In July 2018 we started a more active process to encourage people to relocate, but subsequently suspended the process in the face of legal

challenges to our right to change locks. Whilst we were very confident that what we were doing was lawful, we also felt that it important that this be seen to be the case and for it to be confirmed by the Courts. We now have that legal certainty following a comprehensive judgement in Serco’s favour delivered In the Court of Session by

Lord Tyre in April. In January, Serco was informed by the Home Office that it had been unsuccessful in its bid to supply accommodation for asylum seekers in Scotland from 2019 onwards, and by the end of September 2019 we will no longer have any people providing housing services in Glasgow, neither will we have a licence to provide accommodation. Accordingly, in the coming months we are going to have to return all the housing we rent in Glasgow to its owners at the end of the leases. We will therefore be restarting our lock-change programme so that properties may be returned to their owners with vacant possession in accordance with our contractual obligations.

This is not a step we have taken lightly; we have explored many alternative solutions over the past twelve months, and we have been working with Glasgow City Council (GCC), the Home Office and the third sector to explore different ways forward. Ultimately, for many of the people concerned, the best solution may be the Assisted Voluntary Return Scheme under which the Home Office supports people who have lost their right to remain in the UK and need help to return to their home country.

To help what is likely to be an increased burden on voluntary organisations, Serco will be making up to £150,000 available to charities supporting the homeless in the Glasgow area. When people leave their properties, we will point them towards alternative sources of support

Although the exact number of people we are looking after varies, now we are providing free housing to around 300 people. Almost all are single adult men and women, and no children will be left without housing.

The lock-change programme will be rolled out in a phased manner over the next four months, with no more than 30 people being issued with lock-change notices in any one week and people will be given at least 21 days’ notice so they can make alternative arrangements. We will continue to work with the Home Office, Glasgow City Council and charities to mitigate the impact of this programme in the months ahead, and we expect the number of people who need to move to fall steadily as we work with the Home Office and other parties to find alternative solutions which might include re-instatement of Government support or people making their own arrangements to return to their home countries.

Julia Rogers, Serco’s Managing Director, Immigration, said:

“we very much regret the distress this will cause, but hope that it will be understood that we cannot be expected to provide free housing indefinitely to hundreds of people who have been unsuccessful in their asylum claims and most of whom have no legal right to remain in the UK. We call on all parties to work with us constructively to help people navigate their way through to a new future beyond the asylum system, and we will be making funds available to charities to support this work.”

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