Glasgow politicians are urging the Home Secretary to prevent a "humanitarian crisis" by halting Serco's plans to evict up to 300 failed asylum seekers.
An array of cross-party councillors and MPs have co-signed a strongly-worded letter by Cllr Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council, which "calls on the Home Office to demand Serco ceases its lock change programme".
The letter condemns the Home Office contractor's action as "wholly unacceptable", saying it will "trigger a humanitarian crisis in Glasgow" and create "imminent risk of significant harm to a vulnerable group".
It was signed by Cllrs Susan Aitken, Mhairi Hunter, Jennifer Layden (SNP); Cllr Martha Wardrop (Green); Cllr Frank McAveety (Labour); MPs Alison Thewliss, Patrick Grady, David Linden, Carol Monaghan, Chris Stephens and Stewart McDonald (SNP) and Paul Sweeney (Labour).
Dear Mr Javid,
As members of Glasgow City Council and Parliament, we are co-signing this letter to express our deep concern at the imminent eviction by Serco of potentially hundreds of asylum seekers currently housed in the city.
We share the view that this action by your accommodation provider will trigger a humanitarian crisis in Glasgow, leaving an estimated 300 already vulnerable men, women and children destitute.
Despite the local authority's status as a Home Office partner in the asylum dispersal programme, there was no meaningful engagement with Serco prior to its announcement that it would commence changing the locks of the accommodation of those who have not been granted refugee status.
This is despite the on-going engagement from Leader of Glasgow City Council, Cllr Susan Aitken, and Cllr Jennifer Layden, City Convener for Equalities and Human Rights, and assurances given by your department that communication and engagement from your asylum accommodation contractors would improve. Glasgow's Members of Parliament have also raised a number of questions, highlighting concerns about the operation of the current asylum accommodation contract and the flawed tendering process for the new one.
We would have expected significantly better consultation with key stakeholders about this shift in policy and the failure to engage has left us disappointed in the process that has been followed.
This failure on the part of Serco, and indeed the Home Office, has left the city's voluntary sector totally unprepared for the expected demand from those affected for accommodation. As you will be aware, under the current arrangements, Glasgow City Council is prohibited from providing asylum accommodation. This planned action is wholly unacceptable, not least due to the imminent risk of significant harm to a vulnerable group and the acceleration in demands on already hard-pressed Glasgow public and third sector bodies.
We stand collectively for treating people fairly, and with decency, dignity and respect and we do not think that locking vulnerable people out of their homes ascribes to these values. The evidence in Glasgow over a number of years now is that the policy, as carried out by Serco as the contract holder, of evicting people who have exhausted the asylum process 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 populations, further increasing their vulnerability and significantly adding to the pressures on services provided by the organisations who work in the frontline in this field.
We hereby call on you, as Home Secretary, to instruct Serco to cease the lock change and eviction programme with immediate effect. We also call on you to meet with us to discuss a fair, appropriate and measured way to work together with all partners to ensure that asylum seekers who have not been given leave to remain are not plunged in to unnecessary vulnerability and hardship. It is crucial that effective support is provided to the statutory and voluntary agencies in Glasgow who have to deal with the ongoing impact this policy has on the city and the demands it makes on services.
Cllrs Susan Aitken, Mhairi Hunter, Jennifer Layden (SNP); Cllr Martha Wardrop (Green); Cllr Frank McAveety (Labour); MPs Alison Thewliss, Patrick Grady, David Linden, Carol Monaghan, Chris Stephens and Stewart McDonald (SNP) and Paul Sweeney (Labour).