GLASGOW has threatened to pull out of Britain's asylum seeker dispersal programme in protest at 'inhumane' lock-outs.

For two decades the city has been among the most enthusiastic hosts of people applying for refugee status in the UK under a Home Office programme.

Now its leader, Susan Aitken, has signalled she is so concerned about the treatment of "failed" asylum seekers - some of whom end up destitute and homeless on Glasgow streets - that she is willing to walk away.

READ MORE: Hundreds face asylum evictions in Scotland as Serco starts lock-changing programme

Ms Aitken's warnings came after the outsourcing firm which manages asylum seekers in the city on behalf of the Home Office said it would change the locks on 300 homes.

In a letter to British Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes, Ms Aitken called the move by Serco a "deeply concerning development" and expressed frustration that she could not ask her own officers to help those affected because this would break the law.

Essentially, she said, Serco has to remove people no longer entitled to free accommodation - either because they have failed the asylum process or because they have leave to remain - before a new private business, Mears, takes over the contract later this year.

READ MORE: Glasgow 'blindsided' as refugees face mass evictions

Ms Aitken made it clear she held the UK Government responsible - and called for Home Office intervention.

She said: "The combination of the terms of the contract and UK government policy has a direct humanitarian impact on people living in Glasgow - in some cases, for many years - and additionally on the resources of Glasgow City Council. 

 "The ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ policy renders local authorities powerless to respond and unable to provide the necessary support for many of those who will be affected. They will therefore be made destitute.  

 "In order for Glasgow City Council to provide support, I would have to instruct officers to break the law. " 

She concluded: "If there is no satisfactory resolution to this matter, one which accepts the inevitable consequences of lock changes and prevents them occurring, then Glasgow will have no alternative but to consider what, if any, future it can have in an asylum dispersal programme which allows for the imposition of such inhumane practices, against the express wishes and values not only of Glasgow City Council, but also of the citizens and communities we serve.

City insiders stress Glasgow still wants to welcome asylum seekers but is willing to consider "something akin to a strike" to pressure the Home Office to treat them better.

Glasgow is one of the biggest hosts of asylum seekers. It would be a major blow to the whole dispersal scheme - already described by local authorities as close to "catastrophic failure" if the Scottish city were to pull out.

The Home Office said it had received Ms Aitken's letter and would respond in due course. 

A spokesman added: “The Home Office takes the wellbeing of asylum seekers and the local communities in which they live extremely seriously.

“We have and will continue to work closely with local authorities and partners to ensure that those who have no right to be in the UK leave their accommodation in a safe and secure way.

“We have been working with Glasgow City Council and other partners to ensure those at risk of potential eviction have the necessary advice on their options.”

HeraldScotland: MP Caroline Nokes.

Caroline Nokes MP

Serco 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.

Serco argued that it was paying for housing for people who were not entitled to it - and it was not compensated for this by the government. 

The company earlier this year lost its contract to house asylum seekers in Glasgow and has to hand over to rival Mears in September. 

It said: "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.

"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."

HeraldScotland:

Serco announced that it would give £150,000 to charities, which, unlike the counmcil and other public bodies, are allowed to support destitute asylum seekers.

Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, which campaigns for and supports destitute asylum seekers, said: “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.”

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.