Yesterday, alongside our partners in the #StopLockChangeEvictions coalition, we sent a letter to Mears, Serco and the Home Office requesting an end to evictions from asylum accommodation during Covid-19.
In order to protect everybody during this time, we are seeking assurance that alongside no evictions, that there must be no immigration enforcement raids at asylum accommodation. We are also requesting that access to full asylum support is reinstated for everybody in asylum accommodation at this time, and that asylum support should be sustainably funded for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Alison Watson, Deputy Director, of Shelter Scotland said:
‘At Shelter Scotland we campaign for a right to a home for everyone. We hope that at this point in time, when government guidance is to self-isolate and apply social distancing, that the state and its contractors will agree to put people before profit and provide the necessary shelter that these individuals so desperately need. Our solicitors will continue to advocate for better rights for this client group, alongside our collaboration partners. We cannot stand by and allow people to be evicted, regardless of their immigration status.
“This group of people deserve more compassion all the time but they deserve safety in these awful times. A cast iron guarantee that none of them will lose their homes during this emergency is needed urgently.”
Sabir Zazai, CEO, Scottish Refugee Council:
“Covid-19 is an unprecedented global public health crisis. It is challenging us all. We need a response which protects all the vulnerable in our society, including those homeless or destitute through the asylum process. In collaboration with our partners we are calling on the Home Office, Mears and Serco to take the necessary measures to ensure that people are safe during this time. This is not a time for disagreement, as lives are at stake.”
Letter: Protecting asylum seekers in Glasgow and across all asylum dispersal areas in the UK, in the Covid-19 public health crisis.
First of all, we offer our best wishes for you both and all the workers at Mears and Serco to stay safe and well in the current Covid-19 public health crisis.
Given this is a global and public health crisis, we write as a coalition working with refugees in Glasgow, for your urgent written assurances that no one in asylum accommodation in Glasgow – or indeed anywhere in your responsibility in the UK, will be subject to evictions.
No evictions or immigration enforcement in asylum accommodation.
We are also seeking assurances directly from the Home Office including that, along with no evictions, that there must be no immigration enforcement raids at asylum accommodation either. We have copied this letter to the responsible Home Office Minister.
We hope and expect, in light of this public health emergency, that you will have already agreed on a “no-evictions” policy for the duration of this pandemic. If that is the case, it would be greatly appreciated if you can confirm so that we can give reassurance to the individuals we support.
We appreciate that this is a significant commitment. However, we are faced with truly exceptional circumstances and there is a pressing need to mitigate the associated risks to public health that would arise from evictions during this period.
We, therefore, call on you, in the public interest, to act responsibly, and to be proactive in urgently offering this commitment.
Guarantee and reinstitute full and comprehensive package of asylum support.
Furthermore, given this crisis and the social distancing, self-isolation, and material support inherent to any effective and therefore socially inclusive public health response, we strongly recommend that financial support should be guaranteed for all in asylum accommodation. This should be irrespective of whether asylum support has been discontinued previously.
As part of a comprehensive and reliable package of support, we urge you to ensure financial support is in place, but also that there are no interruptions to, and full continuity of essential services and provisions, particularly food and utilities (water, gas, and electricity). We also request clear arrangements for necessary and emergency repairs that can be conducted safely, minimising Covid-19 risk for all parties: residents, staff and contractors. There must also be clear information and practicable access to local health advice and services.
Putting asylum support on a funded, sustainable basis for duration of Covid-19 pandemic.
You will note that many individuals residing in asylum accommodation have no family ties or support network in the United Kingdom, should they require to self-isolate. The Home Office is also likely to have significant difficulty in effecting removals at this time. We, therefore, also recommend that the Home Office start paying your companies for the associated costs of the provision of accommodation during and until this pandemic is over.
We refer you both and the Home Office to the recently updated guidance issued by the Asylum Support Appeals Project on Covid-19 related eligibility for section 4 asylum support: here.
We hope and expect that you will agree with all of these recommendations.
We recognise that, in the past and perhaps also in the future, we won’t always agree on the arrangements and practices around asylum accommodation. This includes issues at the end of the asylum support process as it currently is, and evictions in particular. However, we do not think this is a time for disagreement, but to act in the public interest and common good.
Finally, in the context of this public health crisis, there is an overarching public interest that this letter and all responses are made public too.
We hope you can give the requested assurance and clarifications, at the earliest possible opportunity and urgently, and ideally by return.
Members of the #StopLockChangeEvictions coalition.HousingIn the news