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Review asylum contracts

WHEN the UK government decided to "disperse" asylum seekers beyond the south-east of England, Glasgow City Council was the first local authority to sign up to the programme.

Since 1999, the city has housed several thousand destitute families, fleeing persecution.

Many are parents, desperate to bring their children to safety. This was highlighted by yesterday's tragedy, in which 35 people believed to be immigrants - adults and children - were found in a container at Tilbury in Essex. One man died and others were taken to hospital.

Asylum seekers - who are not allowed to work until they are granted refugee status - are dependent upon the host nation for a roof. Having extended our hospitality, the least we can do is offer families a safe place while their asylum applications are processed. However, as we reveal today, the Scottish Refugee Council has uncovered shocking evidence of vulnerable families being housed in unsuitable accommodation. Cases have been reported of people fearing for their safety in shared accommodation because there are no locks on doors.

The Scottish Refugee Council has called for a review of the accommodation contract. Immigration remains a reserved matter, so it is up to the UK Government to deal with this situation. Serco was awarded the contract in 2012 and, along with other private firms, it has faced criticism by the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee over the "sub-standard" housing for asylum applicants.

If Serco can't deliver an acceptable service, it should not be housing traumatised families. The right to claim asylum is an international human right. One that imposes a responsibility on all of us to treat those who have fled here with respect, dignity and compassion.

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