Situation of refused asylum seekers facing eviction attracts concern from various organisations

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Responding to concerns about destitution

The situation of refused asylum seekers facing eviction from Y People accommodation in coming months is continuing to rightly attract concern from charities, politicians, church ministers and campaigners across Glasgow and Scotland.

Currently just under 80 people may be forced into destitution after having been issued with letters informing them they will have to leave their Y People accommodation.

The charity has lost its contract with the UK Border Agency to provide housing to asylum seekers in the city to private company, Serco.  Under UK legislation, refused asylum seekers have their accommodation and financial support withdrawn after 21 days and are made destitute. Y People has however had a policy of not seeking immediate evictions and has allowed people to stay in its properties at its own expense.

Assessment of vulnerabilities

Following a meeting with Glasgow City Council and councillors last week, Y People is now working with Scottish Refugee Council and the local authority to assess the cases of all of those affected.

Despite asylum seekers being denied access to public funds, UKBA’s own policies make clear that local authorities have a duty to provide accommodation (and therefore welfare support) to adult asylum seekers where they have a need for care and attention which has not arisen solely because of destitution or because of the physical effects or anticipated physical effects of being destitute.

Asylum seekers in this position are referred to as having a care need. (As amended by Section 120 of the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act).

This has been upheld by the English courts and although contested in a Scottish context, has never been subject to formal legal challenge.  Thus, under section 12 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, refused asylum seekers with care needs may in certain cases be eligible for local authority support.

There are a number of asylum seekers that YPeople has identified as vulnerable, due to ill mental or physical health, disability or old age. 

It is thought that a small minority of those currently facing eviction may be judged to be vulnerable enough to meet section 12 criteria and Glasgow City Council have committed to ensuring that assessments of need are carried out in these cases.

Gary Christie, Head of Policy & Communications of Scottish Refugee Council, said: “We are glad to be able to offer our expertise to assist Y People and Glasgow City Council to find solutions for as many people affected as possible.”

Humane, pragmatic and sensible solutions to destitution

“Yet there will be others who find still find themselves unable to access official support, and like the many refused asylum seekers who are already currently destitute in this city and the many more that will be refused asylum and made destitute in the future, they will be forced to rely on the friends, faith groups, charities and the kindness of strangers.”

“This is not an acceptable situation and the UK Government urgently needs to review its policy and offer support from when people first make an asylum claim until they are either granted status or can be returned safely to their countries of origin.”

“People seeking asylum should also be allowed the dignity and right to work to support themselves and contribute economically to Scotland while they wait for a decision on their claim or as in many of these cases if they have been refused, but temporarily cannot be returned through no fault of their own.”

“We are also calling once again on the UK Government to restore integrity, pride and humanity in our asylum system by returning to a more inclusive approach to its assessment of who is in need of protection.” 

Reassurances offered

At that same meeting Y People offered reassurances that locks would not be changed, contrary to letters initially received by those facing eviction. Due legal process will be followed in all cases before people have to leave their current accommodation.

Meanwhile the issue has been raised in the Scottish Parliament by Glasgow MSPs. Firstly, in a motion by Humza Yousaf MSP who states that the Parliament raises serious concern at the decision to evict asylum seekers in Glasgow.

Secondly in a series of questions by Sandra White MSP who has asked the Scottish Government what representations it has made to the Home Office in regard to the situation.

Rev Ian Galloway, Convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, has also written to First Minister Alex Salmond and to Michael Moore, Secretary of State for Scotland, outlining his concerns.