The number of homeless refugee households in Scotland's biggest city has quadrupled since the start of the year as Glasgow declared a housing emergency, it can be revealed.

Glasgow City Council made the symbolic declaration in the wake of concerns over social unrest following moves to accelerate the clearance of a backlog of asylum clams by the Home Office.

The council has been considering legal action against the Home Office as it fears it will breach the law through being unable to cope with the backlog.

It can be revealed that the number of refugee households that have been referred to homeless support services in Greater Glasgow, having been granted leave to remain since the start of the year, has soared from 45 in January to 176 in October. There were 132 in the first three weeks of November. As many as 1000 refugee households have been referred to homelessness support services since the start of the year.

It has led to increased homelessness applications resulting in an increase in the use of temporary accommodation such as hotel and B&B placements, particularly for single males.

READ MORE: Appeal for more Glasgow homes to let in homelessness 'meltdown'

According to council data, there are currently 211 households who are managed by the Asylum and Refugee Team and are currently residing in temporary accommodation.

When an asylum seeker gets leave to remain in the UK, they are given 28 days to leave accommodation that is provided by Mears while seeking assistance from the local authority under homelessness legislation.

With refugee status, they have the same rights to emergency and settled accommodation as any other household. 

It is estimated that around 33% of applications made to Community Homelessness Services are from households who have been granted leave to remain outwith Glasgow but have chosen to exercise their right be in the city.

This includes households from outside Scotland including Liverpool, Manchester and Belfast.

Last week, a coalition of more than 40 organisations from within the housing, advocacy, refugee, anti-poverty and homelessness sectors across Scotland sent a letter to the Scottish Government demanding investment on social home building in what has been described as a homelessness crisis.

The Herald: Homelessness

Glasgow City Council's city administration committee agreed that the "unprecedented pressures" being faced has forced its hand to make the formal housing emergency declaration.

It comes on the heels of Home Office plans to make around 2,500 batched asylum decisions in Glasgow by the end of this year, which could cost the council more than £53m.

The declaration was a recommendation included in an update report to councillors from Councillor Allan Casey, City Convener for Workforce, Homelessness and Addiction Services on the impact of the Home Office decision to streamline the asylum process.

The council says the declaration does not give them extra powers but "acknowledges the significant pressures" it is facing. It will now develop an emergency action plan.

Edinburgh officially declared a housing emergency at the start of the month becoming the first city in Scotland to do so while seeking urgent funding from the Scottish Government to help meet “severe challenges”.

Figures showed approximately 5,000 households in the capital are in temporary accommodation – the highest number in Scotland.

In June, Argyll and Bute Council declared a housing emergency citing a rise in homelessness post-pandemic and an increasing lack of choice.

Glasgow City Council concerns have surfaced while the number of people in the UK waiting for a decision on their asylum claims has risen to a record high. The UK government has set targets to clear the so-called 'legacy backlog' by the end of this year.

Glasgow's SNP-led council is expecting around 2500 decisions on refugee status to be made by the end of this year, with some 1,800 expected to have leave to remain, which they say will place the "already stretched Homelessness Service under unprecedented pressure".

Councils have a legal obligation to offer temporary accommodation when they assess a person or household as unintentionally homeless but there are concerns Glasgow will not be able to handle the number of cases that are being rushed through this year.

It is feared that it will cost the “already stretched” homelessness service more than £53m in 2024/25 but officials have been told that the UK government will not provide financial support.

But there is already an overspend of £21.4m, including £10.1m overspend in Homelessness Services, while it has has sought to cut back on its use of high cost hotel and bed and breakfast accommodation.

And it is predicted Glasgow's homelessness services will be left with a £70.1m budget black hole in the next financial year.

The Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) - an amalgamation of Glasgow City Council and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde which delivers community health and social care services - has flagged concerns of the potential for social unrest.

The Herald:

The declaration was a recommendation included in an update report to councillors from Allan Casey, city convener for workforce, homelessness and addiction services on the impact of the Home Office decision to streamline the asylum process.

He said: “There is no doubt that the pressures we are facing constitute an emergency. We agree with partners that we urgently need resources to help us deal with these added pressures.

“We also need the UK Government to pause their unconscionable asylum-batching decision, which is already increasing homelessness and destitution, until they work with us to put a proper plan in place and commit to fully funding their decision.

“The city is experiencing an overwhelming increase in people presenting as rough sleepers as well as a significant rise in individuals, from elsewhere in the UK, seeking assistance here in Glasgow.”

The declaration came after housing campaigners including the Scottish Tenants' Organisation pushed the council to make it.

The council will continue to lobby Scottish and UK Governments for appropriate funding and legislative change to respond to this housing emergency.

Shelter Scotland welcomed the declaration and its director Alison Watson told councillors: “The declaration of a housing emergency must be just the beginning of a journey for Glasgow – one which ends with everyone in the city having somewhere warm, safe, and secure to call home.”

The HSCP has said there is a need to find alternative temporary accommodation with the use of rest centres - similar to that considered for Ukrainian arrivals in the wake with the war with Russia.

In Ireland hundreds of vacant 'rest centre' beds were made available and the vacant accommodation consisted of camp-bed style lodgings in the likes of parish halls and community centres.

And plans are in place to find large properties owned by Glasgow City Council that can be utilised as first stop accommodation for refugees with positive decisions.

The HSCP says it acknowledges these arrangements will be "less than adequate" and will likely generate legal challenge and "reputational risk" as well as exacerbating "longer term health and wellbeing problems" for those affected.

Before the asylum 'crisis', campaigners raised fears of a 'meltdown' over the handling of homelessness in Glasgow and it has emerged that, according to a June analysis, the Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) was already 1600 lets short of the 4500 it needs annually.

Susanne Millar, chief officer of the HSCP in an analysis predicted that the unrest would be the result of of "the acceleration of asylum seekers leaving Mears properties".

The HSCP is now planning to to take on nine additional staff - including a full time janitor and security guard - over a two to three year fixed term to deal with the asylum crisis at a total cost of £509,892.

It says Glasgow Homelessness Services is already experiencing a steady increase in judicial reviews in relation to providing accommodation. And they warn this is likely to increase given the "lack of available accommodation and the HSCP inability to fulfil some statutory functions".

The service is now reporting a shift in the proportion of positive asylum seekers residing in hotels. Positive asylum seekers now account for 170 out of the existing 710 residing in hotels which is increasing weekly.

Three areas of Scotland, including Glasgow, were highlighted as areas where there is a greater risk of destitution as the UK government seeks to clear a backlog on asylum claims for hundreds across the country.

The British Red Cross has estimated that 53,100 asylum seekers who are seeking refugee status will be at risk of being without a home across the UK if the Government clears the backlog on decisions.

The charity said that even if decision-making on asylum claims is not sped up and the target not met, 26,000 people could still be at risk of destitution and homelessness.

It is understood that the charity highlights three Scots local authority areas where there is particular housing pressures for people in asylum accommodation - Glasgow City, City of Edinburgh and South Lanarkshire.

The Home Office has said that the pressure on the asylum system has continued to grow, which is why it has taken immediate action to speed up processing times and "cut costs for taxpayers".

It has said in response to the council's concerns: “To minimise the risk of homelessness, we encourage individuals to make their onward plans as soon as possible after receiving their decision, whether that is leaving the UK following a refusal, or taking steps to integrate in the UK following a grant.

“We offer ample support once claims have been granted through Migrant Help, access to the labour market and advice on applying for Universal Credit.”