THE Home Office is responsible for “state-sponsored homelessness” by releasing people straight from Dungavel immigration removal centre on to the streets, according to refugee charities.

The concerns have been raised following a change in legislation in January this year, which means immigration detainees – including those held in Dungavel – are no longer able to apply for an emergency bail address.

It is thought asylum seekers and foreign and EU nationals have so far been affected, with warnings that the number of people at risk could rapidly increase if the policy goes unchecked. Over 200 people are currently held at Dungavel in South Lanarkshire while their immigration claims are decided.

Several Glasgow charities including the volunteer-staffed Unity Centre and Scottish Detainee Visitors, which arranges visits to detainees, say they have been contacted by staff at Dungavel in recent weeks asking for help or advice when instructed to release detainees who have nowhere to go. Many do not have the right to local authority help, and applications for the Home Office support they are entitled to after release take weeks, or even months, to process.

Unity said some people had turned up at their offices with their bag of possessions and nowhere else to turn. Some have been able to access a night shelter, stay with friends or pay for a night in hostel accommodation. However, with the Destitution Night Shelter threatened with closure and seeking new premises, workers said people were running out of options.

Tom Nunn, legal manager at Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID), said: “The Home Office cannot detain people if they are not removable and so, in order to avoid potential legal challenges, they release people to the streets. The Home Office itself calls it ‘release to the streets’.”

Although many former detainees can then apply for Home Office-provided accommodation after their release, Nunn said delays meant people faced street homelessness.

“This is clearly an impossible situation for people with nowhere to live, no recourse to public funds and no permission to work,” he added.

Mia Light, a volunteer for the Unity Centre, said it had been receiving approximately one call a week for more than a month from Dungavel: “It’s really shocking to us that detention centres are releasing people on to the streets,” she said. “It’s state-sponsored homelessness. It’s also shocking that we, as volunteers, are expected to sort it out when they [Dungavel] are unable to.”

Cases included that of a Libyan man who found a place at the Glasgow Destitution Night Shelter. Owen Fenn, manager of the Govan Community Project, said that the organisation was aware of at least four former Dungavel detainees who would have been homeless without the help of voluntary agencies. “The reality is that there will be tens of these cases but we only see people when Dungavel staff have intervened,” he added. “Unless the policy changes this problem will continue and we will see many more. The Home Office needs to re-introduce bail support. We are now seeing people who are street homeless. The situation is very bleak.”

Kate Alexander, director of Scottish Detainee Visitors, said Dungavel staff, who must release someone within four hours of receiving Home Office release papers, were in a difficult situation. She claimed it was further evidence of the need to find community-based alternatives to indefinite detention. “Detention is one of the measures used to make life so difficult for people here that they decide to leave voluntarily and now people are being released into horrific circumstances.”

The latest Home Office figures show that some spent up to three-and-a-half years in immigration detention – 71 people in last year had been held for more than a year and 59 per cent were held for over 28 days. More than half of all detainees are released back into the community.

A Home Office spokesperson claimed it was aware of some “complex cases”, including those of foreign national offenders waiting for accommodation to be allocated, and said the department was working on solutions.

She added: “Any detainee and asylum seeker, including those released from immigration detention on bail, can apply for accommodation and other support if they would otherwise be destitute.

“Decisions about accommodation and detention are made on a case-by-case basis and the individual’s welfare remains of the utmost importance throughout.

“We make every effort to offer suitable accommodation as quickly as possible when it is required.”

A spokesperson for Dungavel said: “We can’t comment on policy matters.”