Campaigners in Glasgow monitored court proceedings on 17 October, in solidarity with asylum seekers who could be evicted from their homes and forced into destitution.
Just as groups are launching a campaign against G4S’ treatment of asylum seekers in the north of England, groups in Glasgow are taking up the cause of asylum seekers facing eviction. The private company Serco assumed responsibility for housing asylum seekers in Scotland and Northern Ireland last month, having previously won a lucrative contract from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) worth some £175 million. In Glasgow, the consequences could well be enforced homelessness and destitution.
Since 2000, housing in the city has mainly been provided by the charity Ypeople (formerly YMCA Glasgow) and, previously, the organisation frequently operated a practice of delaying the evictions of its tenants. Speaking to IRR News, Jock Morris, of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees (GCtWR), said: ‘They went back on this when they lost the contract to Serco and made arrangements to hand the properties over to them. All of their properties have now been handed over except for those with people in them, and it’s these who are facing eviction.’
Leading up to the contract handover, Ypeople’s solicitors issued thirty-two ‘Notices to Quit’ to asylum seekers living in its properties, of whom several have since been issued with legal papers for ‘action of recovery possession’. It is these people who were required to attend a summary hearing on 17 October, with campaigners in tow offering solidarity and support. If the tenants are to be made homeless, the impact would be ‘appalling’, Jock says. ‘They have no right to work, no income whatsoever, and will have no shelter. They will be utterly destitute; their health may well suffer and they will be vulnerable to attacks from people in the street.’
His warning is pertinent, coming only a few weeks after the publication of a serious case review into the circumstances surrounding a baby who starved to death in Westminster. In 2010, his mother’s asylum claim had been accepted, but ‘significant problems’ in the transition from receiving support from the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) to receiving mainstream benefits, left her with neither, reliant on help from local charities. The baby starved to death as his mother lay unconscious, having collapsed as a result of a rare brain infection from which she later died, two days after the death of her child.
‘Some of the people facing eviction in Glasgow’, Margaret Wood (also of GCtWR) explained to IRR News, ‘come from countries where there are no removals to at the moment. They cannot leave this country, but face being made destitute.’ It is a point which has been raised by pro-bono lawyers acting for the potential evictees. And if the officials in Glasgow’s Sheriff Court hearing the cases were surprised to see lawyers and campaigners supporting Ypeople’s tenants, it is a sight which is set to become more frequent. In a statement issued following yesterday’s proceedings, Latta and Co. Solicitors, one of the legal firms involved, stated: ‘The cases were successfully continued to consider challenges raised to the lawfulness of the eviction proceedings. Additional challenges were also raised in respect of potential human rights breaches involving destitution issues. These will be considered at an evidential hearing which has been set for December. The clients are allowed to remain in the accommodation until the matters are fully considered.’
Margaret is more forthright. ‘This is just the beginning. If we lose, we will not give up. We will appeal. We will continue calling meetings and organising.’ Jock agrees. ‘The main purpose of us attending court was to offer support. But this is part of a wider campaign. What we have been able to do so far is reduce the number of people facing eviction. At one point earlier this year it looked like it could have been about 100 people. Lots of organisations have come together. Some people have been offered Section 4 accommodation; some have been given support for health reasons. But we want to make sure the authorities know that we won’t give up. We want to make sure the authorities know that pressure against the evictions will continue until every last one has been stopped.’
Read an IRR News story – Glasgow: the evictions begin
Read an IRR News story – Holding G4S to account