Today, the Court of Session returned their verdict in the case of Ali vs Serco and the Home Office.
The appeal against Serco’s policy of lock change evictions has been refused.
This means that evictions without a court order – which are unlawful in Scotland – can now be carried out by Serco against people in the asylum system.
This sets a deeply worrying precedent for asylum accommodation contracts across the UK.
Sabir Zazai, Chief Executive at Scottish Refugee Council, says:
“We’re bitterly disappointed by today’s decision. This galling verdict leaves hundreds of men and women in Glasgow at risk of lock-change evictions and immediate street homelessness.
“People are very anxious and very stressed. The people we work with do not have family networks in Scotland or friends with spare bedrooms where they can stay in a crisis. People have no options. On top of this, there is already a homelessness crisis in Glasgow that this decision will only contribute to.
“Our advisors are working as hard as they can to provide advice and support. We are collaborating with organisations across Glasgow to try to provide emergency shelter and services, but we need the whole city of Glasgow to step up urgently in response to this.
“We are also pushing for fundamental and urgent reform to the UK’s asylum system. Nobody should be forced into destitution and homelessness with nowhere safe to go.
If you receive a lock-change eviction notice or are concerned in any way about yourself or a friend, please contact our helpline immediately: 0141 223 7979
Commenting on today’s judgment, Judith Robertson, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission said:
“We have serious concerns about the implications of this ruling, both for the people directly affected and for the protection of human rights more broadly.
“The court’s finding that Serco is not acting as a public authority in this context, and therefore is not bound by human rights legal obligations, has profound consequences for how people’s rights are protected when public services are delivered by private providers.”
Fiona McPhail, principal solicitor of Shelter Scotland, said: “This decision is deeply disappointing news for all those directly affected.
“We now face a situation where around 300 people will be at risk of summary eviction, with no right to homeless assistance or no right to work to earn their own income to cover rent, meaning there is a high risk they will end up on the streets of Glasgow.
“Our clients are continuing to progress their asylum claims and cannot return to their country of origin.
“The finding that Serco is not a public authority and therefore does not need to comply with the Human Rights Act is deeply concerning. It’s the state that has the statutory obligation to accommodate asylum seekers – if by privatising those services, the state can avoid its obligations under human rights law, this sets a dangerous precedent.”
For further information about lock-change evictions, and what you could do to help, check out our Q&A.
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