The Scottish Greens are calling for asylum seeker housing to be under local control, run by the council and the third sector.

Your voice will make this call louder - add your name now!

Glasgow has a proud history of providing refuge for people fleeing war and violence. But the treatment of people seeking asylum during lockdown has been appalling, with tragic consequences - two people have now lost their lives in the past two months. This is part of a wider story of how new Glaswegians have repeatedly been failed by private companies with lucrative contracts to provide housing for people in the asylum system. It’s currently Mears Group, who were responsible for the hotel moves during lockdown. Before Mears it was Serco, who we had to fight to prevent their brutal policy of changing locks on residents, and before Serco it was Orchard & Shipman, who again attracted a catalogue of complaints from expert NGOs. Housing for vulnerable people should never be in private hands, run for profit with zero accountability - these tragic recent events show that this cannot go on. Scottish Greens are calling for asylum seeker housing to be under local control, run by the council and the third sector. Your voice will make this call louder - add your name now!

At the start of lockdown, Mears Group - who in 2019 won the £500m contract to provide housing in Glasgow for people going through the asylum system - moved hundreds of people out of their own flats and into hotels with little warning. Moving people from small flats into hotels with hundreds of strangers in a global pandemic is bad enough, but then there were ongoing complaints about food being mouldy and culturally inappropriate, and the meagre £5.37 daily allowance was stopped so people couldn’t buy essential toiletries or phone top ups to call lawyers or loved ones. People staying in the hotels have been raising the alarm for months that the mental health toll of these conditions has been extremely serious.

The private sector has failed asylum seekers

In May, a young man from Syria, Adnan Elbi, was found dead in his hotel room. The cause of death is still under investigation; however his lawyer had provided the Home Office with a statement from Mr Elbi just five days earlier describing his recurrent extreme mental distress. Then at the end of June we had the terrible news of the attack in the Park Inn hotel. While details are still unclear, we know from witnesses that concerns had been raised in the days leading up to the attack - it’s imperative an independent enquiry is established to understand the full details.

Mears Group has admitted that no vulnerability assessments had been made before moving hundreds of people including pregnant women, children, trafficking survivors and people with mental illness into hotels. This is an outrageous breach of their duty of care to people, many of whom are survivors of war, torture and persecution.

It’s long past time to take housing for vulnerable people out of private hands. There is no relationship between a giant corporate body and the people they are supposed to serve.  There is no accountability at local level, no council or political oversight, so it’s almost impossible to raise issues when things go wrong, or plan to meet the needs of a complex group of people. Until last year, Councillors didn’t even know the number or vague locations of the flats Mears uses. Even though Glasgow has been hosting asylum seekers for twenty years, because the housing is under a private contract, there is no integration with the work of the council in other areas like education or mainstream homelessness, which means it’s very easy for families to fall through the cracks.

Asylum seeker housing under local control

Meanwhile, Glasgow has an amazing range of grassroots campaign groups and charities who are experts at supporting people going through the asylum system. The council should work with charities to provide not just housing but wraparound support for people in a way that meets their needs and gives agency and dignity while they go through a traumatising fight to win refugee status.

The Scottish Greens want to see an end to profits being put before people. Of course, we want immigration devolved to Scotland so we can build a new immigration system with justice at its core, ensuring fairness, dignity and a much quicker process for people working through it. In the meantime though, housing for people in the asylum system should be safe, with good standards of care and proper channels of accountability. We’re calling for asylum seeker housing to be under local control, run by the council and the third sector. Please strengthen our call - add your voice now!

Support our campaign for asylum seeker housing to be under local control

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