Glasgow: the evictions begin

Glasgow: the evictions begin


Written by: Jon Burnett

Over 100 asylum seekers are facing eviction in Glasgow, after Serco was contracted to manage their accommodation. 

In January 2011, immigration minister Damien Green apologised for the ‘inappropriateness’ of government proposals to evict hundreds of asylum seekers from Glasgow, turfing them onto the streets if they refused to accept accommodation outside the city.[1] Fast forward just over a year a later and similar proposals are becoming reality. The difference, though, is that this time there is no offer of alternative housing, and it is global giant Serco doing the evicting.

A few weeks ago, Serco was selected by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to accommodate asylum seekers in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north west of England. At £175 million, this contract might be small change to a company which boasted an order book of £17.9 billion and £4,646.4 million revenue at the end of 2011, but it is set to have a massive impact.

Providing housing for asylum seekers is an incredibly lucrative business. (G4S and Reliance Security Task Management won the other contracts, worth £620 million overall, across the UK.) Competition between providers is fierce and Serco secured the contract in Glasgow as it was seen as more cost effective than the existing provider, Ypeople (formerly the YMCA) – a charity which itself had only been providing accommodation in the city for about a year, after the city council lost the contract. What it has led to is an instant change. People seeking asylum, whose claims have been refused, are been forced onto the streets.

It has long been government policy to impose destitution on refused asylum seekers. In most cases, this takes place within a month of the claim reaching a negative decision (unless certain stringent criteria for ‘Section 4’ support can be met). However, in Glasgow, Ypeople took the decision not to enforce this provision, allowing people to remain in their homes instead. Not so, Serco. Serco aims to follow the law to the letter and within a few days of announcing that it was going to be accommodating asylum seekers, people who had been refused began receiving instructions to vacate their houses and that their locks would be changed. Already, asylum support agencies in the city are being inundated with requests for support. Jamie O’Neill, of Positive Action in Housing, for example, put it bluntly: ‘We’ve had people in our office saying they’ll commit suicide as they see no answer to their action’.[2]

The UKBA and the government’s stock explanation of a policy, which has forced hundreds of thousands of refused asylum seekers into homelessness, is that destitution is the fault of the individual in question. Asylum seekers are supported whilst their claim is ongoing, the argument goes. And according to Damien Green, ‘However, when the independent courts have decided that an asylum seeker does not need international protection, support is discontinued and we expect them to return home voluntarily.’[3] This, though, is entirely misleading. Report after report has highlighted that many destitute asylum seekers are entitled to support but have been made homeless as a result of administrative failures; that initial decision making on asylum claims is often so poor that it leads to refusals that are later overturned on appeal and that savage cut-backs in legal aid have left many asylum seekers without sufficient legal support. Report after report, too, has highlighted the depth of human suffering that destitution causes: from malnutrition and severe illness to life as an invisible undocumented worker.

The reality is that controlling, managing, deporting, housing and detaining asylum seekers is big business in the UK – and its raw material is people. Almost every aspect of their lives, as soon as they submit a claim for protection, represents a lucrative opportunity for profit in an asylum system which operates through an alliance of political and corporate interests. Serco’s mantra is that it is ‘bringing service to life’. In Glasgow though, it is human life which is set to suffer.

Related links:

[1] Jon Burnett, ‘Public spending cuts savage dispersal system’, IRR News, (27 January 2011), [2] Grace Franklin, ‘UKBA makes even more people destitute and homeless’, Glasgow Local News, (29 March 2012), [3]Refused asylum seekers destitute says British Red Cross’, BBC News, (16 June 2010).

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

8 thoughts on “Glasgow: the evictions begin

  1. Thanks for highlighting the main issues: deliberate government policy to impose destitution on refused asylum seekers, and the corporations who profit from system.

    A couple of points to clarify though: YPeople has been contracted to provide housing for UKBA in Glasgow since the start, in 2000. It’s just that they increased their share when the Council fell out with UKBA.

    The evictions are being carried out by Ypeople, not Serco. This is a Ypeople decision to end their ‘no evictions’ policy, which started in March 2010, following the deaths of three Russian refugees in their care who had been refused asylum.

    Serco haven’t started yet. When they do, there will be a transition period up to November 2012. People in Glasgow are asking Ypeople to hold off on these evictions, to keep going with the no evictions policy for a little longer. In fact, I can’t understand why they don’t just leave it to Serco to sort out.

  2. Indeed Ypeople took over the Glasgow City contract recently but may I point out that YMCA aglasgow had been housing asylum seekers in Glasgow for ten years with sensitive awareness for the plight the asylum seekers found themselves in. An awareness the private sector will not demonstrate.

  3. Not so, it is not “deliberate government policy to impose destitution on refused asylum seekers”, it is the failed asylum seekers who are imposing destitution upon themselves and their dependents.

    These asylum seekers have had their pleas to remain in Britain legally listened to and a legal decision made that they have no legal or moral right to remain in Britain – the failed asylum seekers refuse to leave – they are placing themselves and their families in a destitute position.

    Our Home Office will gladly return the failed seekers to their countries – the seekers refuse to leave. Part problem is the Home Office / UKBA continuing failure to carry out our laws and remove the failed asylum seekers – deportation is the process of carrying out our legal laws – and successful deportation is good for the economy.

    Serco should contact the HO / UKBA and demand the failed asylum seekers be removed from the UK.

  4. Raibert,

    Many refused refugees come from war zones that no airlines will fly to because it isn’t safe for staff. They literally can’t return home because it is obviously too dangerous, yet our UKBA has told them that they have no right to claim asylum here. So, not at all true that they can be easily returned. Even the Home Office can’t necessarily return them. You need to read up on the “legal decisions” the Home Office makes, because no one who informs themselves about the asylum process and the decisions that are made every day can still believe that it is a fair and humane process. Sending little girls back to countries where they will be mutilated and taken from their mother because she is bisexual? Oh, yes, that sounds humane. But that’s what the UKBA decided to do this month. Get your facts straight or take a bench.

  5. Beth,

    Many airline staff will not fly failed asylum seekers because due to the disruptive behaviour of the intended deportees it is not safe for the staff and their legitimate passengers.

    “Sending little girls back to countries where they will be mutilated and taken from their mother because she is bisexual?”

    Oh, you mean Florence and “Precious” Mhango and Angeline Pirira Mwafulirwa and her three children. The Mhangos were given every opportunity to present their case for staying – they failed at every opportunity – their case had no merit. Malawi does not mutilate little girls.

    Angeline Mwafulirwa is attempting to use the same falsehood as used in the Mhango case – her case has no merit – Malawi does not mutilate little girls. Her updated claim for asylum, ie, she now has a same sex partner – Malawi does not prosecute or discriminate against its LGBT.

    Outcome of the Mwafulirwa fiasco? – will Mrs? Mwafulirwa opt to abscond, ie, do a runner, as with the Mhangos?

    YOU get your facts straight – go on to the Malawi networks and read the true facts – read that which the Malawi people are reporting on the Mhango and Mwafulirwa families.

  6. In the interest of national relations, if not race relations, please correct the error of including Ireland in any part of this mess. Northern Ireland? Knock yourself out, but I think you’ll find the UKBA have no agency, if you’ll excuse the pun, in Ireland.

  7. I am writing this from Malawi. There are two comments posted here which, when taken together, defame my country. I wonder if ICC will allow me to post a reply in defence of Malawi.

    Beth wrote, “Sending little girls back to countries where they will be mutilated and taken from their mother because she is bisexual” In response to that, Raibert stated that Beth was referring to Malawi. Nkosi says that Beth’s comment cannot be applied to Malawi.


    It is a mystery to me why activists allege that FGM is practiced in Malawi. One explanation is that they are confusing Malawi with Mali, where FGM is indeed practiced. The two countries are thousands of kilometres apart, however; the former is basically Christian, while the latter is Muslim.

    Reference (1) includes a WHO bar chart showing countries in Africa which practice FGM. Malawi does not appear on that chart, even at the low-incidence end. Looking at a map of Africa, reveals that Malawi is outside the area in which FGM is practiced. On the other hand, reference (1) shows that FGM is practiced there in the UK:

    “As many as 100,000 women in Britain have undergone female genital mutilations with medics in the UK offering to carry out the illegal procedure on girls as young as 10. … Police have failed to bring forward a single conviction.”

    The practice of FGM in the UK is confirmed in a US State Department document: 2010 Human Rights Report: United Kingdom.


    The Constitution of Malawi and Family Law make such stealing of children to be illegal. If there is any dispute over children, then it can be settled in a court of law similar to what you have there in the UK. There are two government bodies that can assist anyone to present their case. They are the Victim Support Unit of the Malawi Police, and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare.

    In Section 24 of the Constitution, reference (2), we find:

    “Women have the right to … acquire and retain custody, guardianship and care of children and to have an equal right in the making of decisions that affect their upbringing.”

    There is nothing in the Constitution or in Law which prevents anyone from being awarded custody because of their sexual orientation.

    If a dispute is referred to the Family Court, no account is taken of outdated cultural practices. Reference (3) is the official judgement about a case, where the wife won a divorce, was granted custody of the children, maintenance for them, and a house for them all to live in.


    Malawi has a population of about 14 million, so there must be at least hundreds of homosexual acts taking place every day. There has been only one, stupid prosecution in 2010, showing that there is a wide degree of acceptance of homosexuality. The prosecution came about because one couple held a public engagement to challenge the authorities. They were funded and encouraged by First World activists who wanted to promote LGBT rights in Malawi. Foolishly, the authorities fell into the trap of the foreign activists. In short, the couple were convicted, but were quickly pardoned and released.

    One of the men said later, reference (4):

    “Although I claimed that I still love Tiwo, I did not mean it. I have never had sex with him as was revealed in court. That is why the medical examination failed to establish any anal penetration. I was coerced into the whole thing.”

    Such stupid prosecutions will never again happen in Malawi. Two months ago at the state opening of Parliament, President Banda announced, reference (5):

    “Some laws … will be repealed as a matter of urgency… these include the provisions regarding indecent practices and unnatural acts.”


    I have banged on a bit in this post, hoping to persuade the mis-informed to leave our innocent country alone, and to go libel someplace else.


    (2) Constitution of Malawi:

    (3) A judgement in Family Court:



  8. OOPS!

    Sorry, in line #2 I should have written IRR, not ICC.

    The link for ref (4) seems no longer to work. I was referring to an article entitled “Monjeza dumps Aunt Tiwo for a woman”, published in the Nation newspaper. The following link works, or google the headline to read the article elsewhere.

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