Author: Laura Paterson
LAWYERS for Glasgow Council are looking at ways to “supersede” the law to help refugees facing eviction, the council’s leader said yesterday.
Outsourcing giant Serco, which provides accommodation for asylum-seekers on behalf of the Home Office, plans to evict up to 330 asylum-seekers in Glasgow who have failed to gain official refugee status.
Council leader Susan Aitken told BBC Scotland that the council is prohibited from providing accommodation for people who have exhausted the asylum process but uses its general power of welfare to help particularly vulnerable groups such as families and those with HIV.
She said she has instructed council lawyers to examine whether this can be extended to cover those who face having their locks changed by Serco, many of whom are young single men.
Ms Aitken said: “We need to look at it very carefully and we are looking at it very carefully if we can use our general power of wellbeing to supersede UK law and support a wider range of people who find themselves, essentially, being made destitute as a consequence of UK government policy.”
She warned that the council could face legal challenges from the Home Office over its actions.
Ms Aitken said: “Glasgow City Council will step up and we will support vulnerable people where we possibly can, but what we really need is not for us to step in and pick up the mess left behind by UK government policy. We need a change in UK government policy.”
Serco revealed plans at the weekend to start changing the locks on accommodation for asylum-seekers refused refugee status.
The firm said it has provided accommodation, for months in some cases, for those without the right to remain in the UK without recompense from the Home Office and at a cost of more than £1 million a year, which it claimed should be borne by the council.
Ms Aitken countered that these costs should be borne by the Home Office and repeated calls to Home Secretary Sajid Javid to step in and stop the evictions.
Serco chief executive Rupert Soames has said lock-change notices would be given to no more than 10 people a week for the next four weeks.
He said that none of these would be families with children and all will be people who the Home Office considers to have exhausted their appeal process and no longer have the right to remain.