HUNDREDS of asylum seekers are to be locked out of their homes in a shock move officials fear will cause a humanitarian crisis on Scotland’s streets.

A private firm housing thousands of refugees in Glasgow says it will start evicting up to 300 people who have been told they cannot stay in Britain.

Serco will issue a first six “lock change” notices on Monday giving residents a week to get out with nowhere else to go.

Distraught council officials in Glasgow said they had been given no meaningful warning about a change that could leave large numbers of people on the city’s streets with no means of survival.

The council is barred from housing failed asylum seekers and charities who are legally allowed to do so simply lack the capacity to put so many people up.

Jennifer Layden, who speaks for Glasgow City Council on equalities and human rights, said: “We have been completely blind-sided by this sudden announcement which will potentially leave many people destitute in the city.

“It is clear from their correspondence that Serco plans to start this policy without proper consultation or engagement.

“The council is legally prevented from providing accommodation for people with No Leave to Remain and No Recourse to Public Funds.

“The city’s voluntary sector is completely unprepared for a sudden surge in people needing accommodation. This is an appalling situation for all affected.”

Serco wrote to charities and local authorities on Friday morning announcing the new lock-out change and suggesting it came after a lengthy period of ‘working closely” with the council.

Asked by The Herald, Serco on Sunday said this close work included the new policy. Glasgow City Council disputes the accuracy of this claim.

Ms Layden, an SNP councillor, said she had had a meeting with Serco officials on ways to help the most vulnerable failed asylum seekers, such as those who are sick or disabled. But she added: “During this meeting, there was no mention by Serco of lock changes and I’m deeply disappointed that they have chosen to take this approach while we were having constructive discussions in other areas.”

The official who manages Serco’s Glasgow refugee housing project, Jenni Halliday, said: “We have been paying for the rent, the rates, the heating and lighting, and insurance on their properties, in many cases for many months all at our own expense. Each of these former Asylum Seekers have been refused the right to stay in the UK by the Government and the Home Office does not fund Serco to provide them with accommodation.”

She added: “Whilst we are sympathetic to their plight, we believe we have been more than supportive of these individuals by providing them with an additional period of housing in which to make alternative arrangements but we cannot continue to provide free housing indefinitely. As they no longer have any right to continue to live in the property we provide. We have therefore started legal proceedings to repossess our properties.”

Owen Fenn, of Govan Community Project, said: "Serco have proven that they can’t be trusted to deliver a public service.

"We are in a position where emergency accommodation in Glasgow is either overstretched or unavailable. Three hundred people with no recourse to public funds will be made street homeless in the coming weeks. This is a brewing humanitarian crisis for Glasgow.

"At a time where the tendering process for the asylum accommodation contract in Scotland is still ongoing, the Home Office need to urgently consider whether Serco are fit to receive more public money."

Serco, which provides a whole range of government outsource contracts, last month issued a revenues warning. Its chief executive, Rupert Soames, a grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, added that market conditions were "less than ideal, particularly in the UK" but that restructuring should ensure profits were maintained.

The company has previously been accused of trying to force former asylum seekers out of their homes. Some families claimed they had been intimidated. Nahla Hamad, a mother of two who was asked to leave, in 2016 told the Sunday Herald that Serco staff had come in to her home when she was bathing. Serco denied allegations of unprofessional conduct.

Serco houses some 5000 people in Glasgow under a Home Office dispersal scheme begun two decades ago.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are provided with free, fully furnished accommodation while applications are considered.

"We also cover utility costs and provide a cash allowance to cover other essential living needs.

"While an asylum claim is outstanding, we would not be seeking removal. Even if an asylum claim has failed, we will provide accommodation for those who would otherwise be destitute and who are temporarily unable to leave the UK because of a practical or legal obstacle.

"However it is right that we prepare for someone’s removal if they do not have a lawful basis to stay in the UK and they are not pursuing an appeal."

Scottish Labour West Scotland MSP Mary Fee condemned what she called Serco's "brutal decision". She said: "Their decision to change the locks on properties with almost no prior warning is scandalous and lacks any compassion or rationale.

"The reality is that Serco are conducting a mass extra-judicial eviction of some of the most vulnerable people in our society."