Over 1,000 people in Scotland received financial support due to destitution caused by the UK government's immigration policy, a study has found.

There has been a sharp reported rise in eviction cases going through Glasgow Sheriff Court brought by Home Office accommodation provider Mears Housing, following a decision to shorten the eviction process for people seeking asylum in dispersal accommodation, raising concerns among campaigners that lock-change evictions previously used by Serco could resume.

Serco’s policy between 2012 and 2019 meant locks on people’s homes could be changed without notice if they were no longer eligible for asylum support, effectively forcing them into immediate street homelessness.

Fair Way Scotland, which was set up to mitigate the effects of the UK government's immigration policies said 1,205 people excluded from state support accessed its services in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, including 730 who received casework support in an effort to regularise their immigration status and protect them from being made homeless or forced on to the streets.  

The Herald: Homeless

 Six people were accommodated by the partnership in Glasgow with linked £50 weekly cash payments because they were excluded from all forms of public support. Sixty people in Glasgow, 291 in Edinburgh and 21 in Aberdeen accessed support and advice.

The report from Heriot-Watt University’s I-SPHERE institute, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, calls on the UK Government to overhaul their hostile immigration policies and commit to ending destitution by design. It also urges the Scottish Government to show clearer political leadership by setting out concrete plans to fully mitigate the harm these policies create.

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The report’s author Beth Watts-Cobbe, Senior Research Fellow at I-SPHERE, said: “Our report shows the distance travelled in the first year of the partnership despite political and economic uncertainty, tight council budgets and high housing demand, and the priorities ahead. 

“Intolerance of rough sleeping and destitution is a marker of a civilised society. The UK and Scottish Governments will rightly be judged on taking the harms experienced by those with No Recourse to Public Funds or welfare support seriously.”

Deborah Hay, Senior Policy Advisor (Scotland) at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “Destitution should never be a tool of public policy. Yet, the UK Government is doing just that by locking people out of essential support, inflicting needless misery on thousands of people who want to make Scotland their home.

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“Fair Way partners have demonstrated that ending destitution in Scotland is possible, despite the challenges. Scaling up Fair Way is now critical given rising demand for help, but mitigation programmes like this shouldn’t be necessary. The UK Government must commit to an urgent change of course and end destitution by design.”  

Sabir Zazai, CEO of Scottish Refugee Council, said: “Safe housing and legal advice is more important than ever as the UK Government continues to pursue hostile policies and deny people their basic human rights.

“As we see a deeply concerning rise in people seeking protection being evicted from their homes, this report highlights some of the proactive ways people at risk of homelessness can be supported.”