Serco to recommence lock-change eviction policy despite ongoing legal challenges

Serco accommodation

Background to Serco lock-changes and statements from Scottish Refugee Council and across the sector.

Background

Housing provider Serco have today announced that they will recommence their lock-change eviction policy over the coming months, despite ongoing legal challenges against them.

In summer 2018, Serco suddenly announced that they planned to evict 300 destitute asylum seekers from their homes, serving lock-change notices which generated widespread opposition and controversy. A legal challenge was raised by Govan Law Centre, who argued that no evictions should take place without the authority of a court order. The hearing took place on 7-8 February 2019 at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, and the Court of Session delivered its ruling on 12 April that the lock-change evictions were lawful.

Serco’s statement today announces that they will begin evictions over the next four months, evicting “no more than 30 people per week” until their contract is passed on to Mears Group. Thirty vulnerable, destitute people per week, leading to 300 people in total, will be forced onto the streets of Glasgow.

Statements from Scottish Refugee Council, Shelter Scotland and Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell

Graham O’Neill, Policy Manager at Scottish Refugee Council:

“We are outraged at Serco’s plan to initiate lock change evictions in the coming weeks and months. For hundreds of men and women in Glasgow this will mean forced eviction from their only source of accommodation and safety in Scotland.

Serco have announced their intention to make thirty people a week street homeless. The consequences of these evictions are clear: extreme human suffering on a mass scale with all the immediate adverse health and exploitation risks that ensue.

Serco and the Home Office are aware of several ongoing legal challenges against the lock change policy. Scots legal process has not been exhausted and we don’t believe the law in this regard has been definitively clarified.

Once again, the agencies that work daily with people refused refugee protection, often on the back of Home office decisions overturned on appeal, knew nothing about this plan. Once again their public announcement has spread fear and anxiety among refugee communities.”

 

Fiona McPhail, Shelter Scotland Principal Solicitor:

“Shelter Scotland is hugely disappointed at Serco’s statement that they will roll-out their lock change programme within the next four months, notwithstanding ongoing legal challenges to the lawfulness of the policy.

In August 2018, Serco publicly undertook to pause all lock changes until the law was clarified.

Shelter Scotland firmly believes that lock changes are illegal without a court order, with the court still to fully determine all legal arguments in the ongoing actions.

We are very concerned about the impact of the lock change programme which will place up to 30 people per week at risk of homelessness and destitution.

Shelter Scotland will continue to provide legal advice to individuals at risk of a lock change, in partnership with other legal and asylum support charities through legal surgeries hosted by the Scottish Refugee Council.”

 

Aileen Campbell, Communities Secretary:

“The Home Office has to live up to its responsibilities. It is not acceptable to leave the asylum accommodation provider to deal with the inevitable results of a flawed system, and to wash your hands of the consequences.”

Joint Statement from organisations supporting people affected by eviction threats

As organisations working to support people in need in Scotland we are extremely concerned by Serco’s plans to initiate lock change evictions in the coming weeks and months. For hundreds of men and women this will mean forced eviction from their only source of accommodation and safety in Scotland.

 Serco have announced their intention, upheld by the Home Office, to make three hundred people in Glasgow street homeless. The consequences of these evictions are clear: suffering on a mass scale and thirty people each week put at immediate risk of exploitation and ill health.

 We disagree with Serco’s view that this matter has been clarified definitively in law. Govan Law Centre has raised an appeal against the Court of Session’s April ruling and additional legal action is also being pursued.

 Aside from the question of the legality of these evictions, we believe it is morally unacceptable to force people into homelessness and extreme poverty. The men and women in Serco accommodation are here seeking international protection. They are in Scotland seeking safety from civil war, terrorism and human rights abuses. They do not have alternative resources or recourse to change their situations.

 The Home Office have it in their power to intervene and ensure that mass homelessness is avoided. Destitution is a political choice on the part of the Home Office and has no place in a humane and well-functioning asylum and immigration system.

 Signed by:

 Sabir Zazai, Chief Executive, Scottish Refugee Council

Kirsti Nelson, Senior Associate, Legal Services Agency Ltd

Jen Ang, Director, Just Right Scotland

Margaret-Ann Brunjes, Chief Executive, Glasgow Homelessness Network

Annika Joy, Chair, Glasgow Night Shelter for Destitute Asylum Seekers

Sheila Arthur, W-ASH Project

Fiona McPhail, Principal Solicitor, Shelter Scotland

Jalal Chaudry, Associate, Latta & Co Solicitors

Lorraine McGrath, Chief Executive, Simon Community Scotland

Robina Qureshi, Positive Action in Housing

Jane Bruce, Chief Executive Scotland, Social Bite

 

 

If you receive a lock-change notice from Serco, bring it to Scottish Refugee Council offices immediately/as soon as possible. 

Helpline: 0141 223 7979