HUNDREDS of asylum seekers based in Scotland are facing eviction after Home Office housing provider announced it is to begin a long-planned lock-changing programme.

Serco, which provides free housing to around 300 people in Glasgow, first announced that it was issuing notices to tenants who had been denied the right to remain in the UK last July.

A legal challenge from two asylum seekers against the measure in April argued that their eviction would be unlawful without a court order – however, it was dismissed by a judge.

READ MORE: Serco eviction list in Glasgow includes 100 granted refuge in UK

Serco has said it was informed by the Home Office that it had been unsuccessful in its bid to supply accommodation for asylum seekers in Scotland from 2019 onwards.

That  meant that at the end of September 2019 it will no longer have any people providing housing services in Glasgow, and they will not have a licence to provide accommodation. 

HeraldScotland:

"Accordingly, in the coming months we are going to have to return all the housing we rent in Glasgow to its owners at the end of the leases. We will therefore be restarting our lock-change programme so that properties may be returned to their owners with vacant possession in accordance with our contractual obligations," Serco said.

"This is not a step we have taken lightly; we have explored many alternative solutions over the past twelve months, and we have been working with Glasgow City Council (GCC), the Home Office and the third sector to explore different ways forward.

"Ultimately, for many of the people concerned, the best solution may be the Assisted Voluntary Return Scheme under which the Home Office supports people who have lost their right to remain in the UK and need help to return to their home country."

Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, who has  campaigned on the issue, said she was shocked by the move.

“Rupert Soames (Serco’s CEO) agreed publicly that they would not take any immediate action to evict after the Court of Session judgement last month, and would consult with key partners. Neither of these happened.

"We are also extremely concerned, in the absence of a structured eviction process with a sheriff officer attending, what these lock change evictions look like. Are people going to be dragged out with their belongings dumped in the street? There is no procedure.”

The private outsourcing giant said it was making up to £150,000 available to charities to support the homeless in the Glagsow area "to help what is likely to be an increased burden on voluntary organisations".

The lock-change programme is to be rolled out in a phased manner over the next four months, with no more than 30 people being issued with notices in any one week, Serco said.

HeraldScotland:

Almost all are single adult men and women, and Serco said “no children will be left without housing”.

READ MORE: Serco eviction list in Glasgow includes 100 granted refuge in UK

People will be given “at least 21 days’ notice so they can make alternative arrangements” and the firm said it will continue working with the Home Office and Glasgow City Council in the months ahead.

Julia Rogers, Serco’s managing director for immigration, said: “We very much regret the distress this will cause, but hope that it will be understood that we cannot be expected to provide free housing indefinitely to hundreds of people who have been unsuccessful in their asylum claims and most of whom have no legal right to remain in the UK.

“We call on all parties to work with us constructively to help people navigate their way through to a new future beyond the asylum system, and we will be making funds available to charities to support this work.”

Two men last year began an hunger strike outside the Home Office in Glasgow in protest when the plans were first revealed.