The multi-national corporation Serco has been urged to sign up to a set of housing quality standards after being named as the likely provider of accommodation to asylum seekers in Glasgow.

The UK Border Agency has named six preferred bidders to take over the work for the next five years, after a Home Office tendering exercise.

In fact, there are only three winners, as the companies Reliance, G4S and Serco have been awarded preferred status for two regions each.Serco Civil Government is set to take over the multi-million pound contract from the charity YPeople in April.

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The provision of housing for asylum seekers in Scotland has often been controversial. It was provided for several years by Glasgow City Council, and has since been managed by the private Angel Group and the charity Ypeople (formerly YMCA Glasgow).

The change was announced by the UKBA with details of the new providers quietly posted on the agency's website on Friday. The UKBA has named Serco Civil Government as winner of the north-west of England and the Scotland and Northern Ireland contracts, G4S Regional Management are preferred in north-east Yorkshire and the Midlands, while Reliance Secure Task Management will cover London and the south and Wales.

All the successful providers are major multi-national security companies, with the Government opting to have no provision in the public or voluntary sector. The three firms are all involved in the provision of immigration detention services in the UK. Serco runs the Yarl's Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire.

Serco was immediately challenged to adopt the Scottish Standards for Temporary Accommodation promoted by the charity Shelter Scotland and the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland.

These outline minimum housing and service standards for people in temporary homeless accommodation.

Michael Collins, of the City of Sanctuary group, said: "Glasgow can be proud of our history as a city of welcome for people seeking sanctuary. Asylum housing provision, however, has been very hit and miss and some of it, particularly in the private sector, has been downright awful. What we are offering here is a chance for the new landlord to match the goodwill of Glasgow people and the standards of Scottish housing providers.

"We aren't asking for special treatment for people seeking sanctuary, just a housing service of the same standard as that for other people who find themselves homeless."

Mr Collins, a former housing manager at Scottish Refugee Council, added: "In Glasgow and across the UK there have been examples of shockingly sub-standard housing being used in Border Agency contracts. Problems have often been highlighted by community groups and voluntary organisations, but this year those groups in Glasgow have had their council funding cut by almost 50%, leading to redundancies and cut-back services."

A refugee, community development degree student and a member of City of Sanctuary, Pinar Aksu said: "Poor quality housing is always one of the big issues at the women's refugee group I work with. If Serco sign up to this, we'll be able to make sure everyone knows the standard to expect, we can monitor the service and help people report problems."

The Scottish Refugee Council called for the handover to be smooth to avoid problems for what it said was a highly vulnerable group of people. Head of policy Gary Christie said: "Our concern would be that the transition is handled smoothly to ensure disruption is minimised and we'll be working with the new providers to try to ensure this."

A year ago the handover of responsibility for housing provision from Glasgow City Council to YPeople was accompanied by letters to asylum seekers warning them they might be moved across the city or even to another part of the country at a moment's notice.