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30 July 2018, 07:09
Plans to change the locks on the homes of asylum seekers refused refugee status have been branded "scandalous" by Scottish Labour.
MSP Mary Fee said she was "utterly dismayed" by the decision taken by public services group Serco, which could affect up to 300 people in Glasgow.
The plans are revealed in an email from a Serco senior manager to agencies involved in supporting refugees.
Historically, lock changes have not been used for those who remain in asylum accommodation despite the Home Office ruling they will not be granted refugee status and withdrawing their funding and support.
The email says: "Serco are now consistently accommodating approximately 250 - 300 former asylum seekers at any given time who have received a negative decision at our own expense."
It confirms the company "will be commencing with the issuing of lock change notices" for "those former asylum seekers who have received a negative decision as of w.c 30th July 2018".
An initial six applicants will be issued with a seven-day lock change notice on Monday.
West Scotland MSP Ms Fee became aware of the plans through the Women's Asylum Seeker Housing project, which has raised concerns that many of those involved are vulnerable and could end up homeless.
She said: "I am utterly dismayed by Serco's brutal decision to lock asylum seekers out of their properties across Glasgow. Their decision to change the locks on properties with almost no prior warning is scandalous and lacks any compassion or rationale.
"The reality is that Serco are conducting a mass extra-judicial eviction of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Ultimately, this decision will force families in to homelessness.
"We have a duty to displaced persons, who are fleeing persecution and warfare from around the world. Serco and the Tory government have totally failed in their duty of care to protect some of our most vulnerable people living in Glasgow."
Jenni Halliday, Serco contract director, said: "Serco has been providing housing free of charge to over 300 former asylum seekers who no longer have the right to stay in the UK.
"We have been paying for the rent, the rates, the heating and lighting, and insurance on their properties, in many cases for many months all at our own expense.
"Each of these former asylum seekers have been refused the right to stay in the UK by the Government and the Home Office does not fund Serco to provide them with accommodation.
"Whilst we are sympathetic to their plight, we believe we have been more than supportive of these individuals by providing them with an additional period of housing in which to make alternative arrangements but we cannot continue to provide free housing indefinitely.
"We have therefore started legal proceedings to repossess our properties."
A Home Office spokesman said: "Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are provided with free, fully furnished accommodation while applications are considered.
"We also cover utility costs and provide a cash allowance to cover other essential living needs.
"While an asylum claim is outstanding, we would not be seeking removal. Even if an asylum claim has failed, we will provide accommodation for those who would otherwise be destitute and who are temporarily unable to leave the UK because of a practical or legal obstacle.
"However it is right that we prepare for someone's removal if they do not have a lawful basis to stay in the UK and they are not pursuing an appeal."