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Change of asylum-seeker housing provider ends lock-change evictions

17 September 2019

Evictions of Glasgow-based asylum seekers by changing the locks on their doors are to end, following a commitment agreed by Mears, the new Home Office housing contractor, with social landlords in the city.

Controversy grew after the previous contractor, Serco, began taking such action to recover properties occupied by people who had been refused leave to remain in the UK but who were bringing further applications or legal proceedings.

Test cases challenging the legality of removing the applicants by changing the locks, without first obtaining a court order, failed at first instance in the Court of Session (click here for report), but have been appealed. A decision is awaited following an appeal hearing at the end of August. Meantime more than 50 other applicants have obtained interim interdict against Serco employing lock-change evictions against them.

The new commitment was agreed between new provider the Mears Group and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) and Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF). Over 400 housing association homes are leased to Serco, which has been the Home Office’s asylum accommodation provider in recent years.

Asylum seekers who have already been told they cannot stay in the UK will continue to be housed by Serco, pending the outcome of the legal proceedings.

Polly Jones, SFHA head of membership and policy, commented: “Together with our members, SFHA and GWSF have secured a commitment from Mears to prevent any asylum seeker facing destitution. We are delighted lock-change evictions have been ruled out and replaced with a clear and fair support package, where any decision to evict an asylum seeker must be approved first by a court.

“Social landlords want to continue to provide much-needed accommodation to asylum seekers in Glasgow and this new contract ensures that will happen.”

GWSF Director David Bookbinder added: “We really welcome the willingness of Mears to take a fresh approach to the very difficult and sensitive issue of how asylum seekers in Glasgow will leave their accommodation after they have a decision on their right to stay in the UK. It’s important for housing associations to be confident that their homes are managed by the Home Office’s contractor professionally and humanely.”

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