We call for humanity to be at heart of housing negotiations

Housing estate in Glasgow
High-rise flats in Glasgow. c. Jenny Wicks

Please note: Information for people who are unsure about their accommodation is available in our advice section. This will be updated as and when we receive further information from the UK Border Agency.

Scottish Refugee Council is calling for the needs of those seeking asylum to be put at the heart of any negotiations that are underway with UK Border Agency to house almost 1,300 people seeking asylum in Glasgow, as lack of clear information continues to leave both individuals and advice services in uncertainty.

Over 600 households were sent a letter on November 5, informing them that the UK Border Agency had sent a notice of termination of its contract with Glasgow City Council to provide housing for asylum seekers dispersed to the city under the UK dispersal programme and that they would be required to move within the ‘Scottish region’.

The decision was reached when the two parties failed to come to an agreement.

Many enquiries for advice

To date Scottish Refugee Council has had enquiries from many worried people who are claiming asylum, who have been provided with little information on where and when they may be re-housed and have come to our offices seeking help and advice.

John Wilkes, Chief Executive of Scottish Refugee Council, said: “We have so far seen dozens of people seeking asylum who will be affected by the termination of this contract. It is extremely difficult to advise them as we still have precious little information to give them on what the next steps might be.

“They have heard nothing official since the UK Border Agency sent them a letter on November 5, informing them that they may have to move. The letter gave very little detail and as usual, UK Border Agency only provided this scant information in English. Scottish Refugee Council was not given a copy of this letter - the first we saw of it was when clients took it to our office.

Need for information

'Immigration minister Damian Green has said in parliament that Scottish Refugee Council would be in a position to provide additional advice, however, we cannot provide that advice without sufficient information from the UK Border Agency.

“This lack of communication has caused widespread fear and anxiety in close knit communities across the city and rumour is rife because people are being left in the dark. We believe it is unacceptable that people who have often fled traumatic and violent situations – and face the uncertainty of the asylum system – are faced with this further uncertainty.

“We are particularly concerned about the affect this is having on the most vulnerable – those with health, including mental health issues as well as those with children. The UK Border Agency is under a statutory duty to promote and safeguard the wellbeing of children. We do not believe that sending a standard blanket letter informing families that they will have to move with little notice when plans are not confirmed reflects this in any way and could in fact lead to people being re-traumatised.

Hoping to play an active part

“We are continuing to liaise with all parties, but as yet have been unable to gather any concrete information on what lies ahead. We maintain that the best way forward is for all interested parties to work together to ensure that people seeking asylum face the minimum amount of disruption in this run-up to the festive period and would be glad to play an active part in that process. 

“The needs of asylum seekers should be put at the heart of any decision that is reached. We sincerely hope that this can happen as swiftly as possible.”