Author: Tomáš Tengely-Evans
A wave of outrage has forced outsourcing giant Serco to back down from plans to throw 330 asylum seekers onto the streets of Glasgow.
Around 350 people protested outside the Home Office building in Glasgow last Saturday. The protest ended with a burning of the eviction notices.
And up to 500 people also protested in Glasgow on Tuesday last week—the day after news of the plans spread.
Serco runs the asylum seeker housing on a contract from Tory Sajid Javid’s Home Office.
It issued “lock change notices” to refugees whose asylum claims had been rejected. It said that it would now “pause all further lock-change notices” while the “law is being tested and clarified”.
Robina Qureshi is director of refugee homelessness charity Positive Action in Housing, which has been helping the 330 asylum seekers. “Glasgow is the new front line of the hostile environment,” she told Socialist Worker.
“If we don’t stand up to this, it will be a new trend with people turned out onto the streets through mass evictions”.
Serco are now waiting on the results of legal bids to stop the evictions. Govan law centre lodged papers on behalf of one of the asylum seekers at the Court of Session in Edinburgh last week.
Housing charity Shelter also lodged a case at Sheriff’s Court in Glasgow to prevent Serco from issuing lock change notices to two asylum seekers.
Robina was clear that the battle is far from over. “Serco is buying itself time by waiting on the legal case,” she said. “Is it saying it would still be alright to turn people out if the legal cases lose?”
Parkhead Housing Association, which leases houses in Glasgow to Serco has said it would not allow the outsourcer to change fixtures and fittings on its properties.
And it said that it would seek to change Serco occupancy agreements into temporary social tenancy agreements without the tenant having to move.
Other housing associations should follow suit. As Robina said, “We need the Glasgow housing associations united in not letting Serco change locks.”
The Home Office is tendering a new asylum seeker housing contract worth £4 billion over 10 years. Robina said, “Serco and G4S have proven themselves not fit for purpose, but the public sector was effectively frozen out because of the tendering conditions.
“The bidding for it should be reviewed and investigated”.
The treatment of the 330 asylum seekers at the hands of Serco was a direct result of Britain’s racist immigration rules. Many of the refugees affected have fled from wars in Afghanistan and Syria.
Beating back the Tories’ laws and the brutal treatment of asylum seekers requires a mass movement against racism.