Over the weekend, Serco, a private housing firm in Glasgow, announced that it would start evicting asylum seekers who had not been granted refugee status in the UK. As a result, three hundred residents will be on the streets by next Monday, with just a week to try to find new accommodation. Because of their failed refugee status, Glasgow City Council is legally unable to help those residents, many of whom do not speak English, have no money or contacts, and nowhere to go. Speaking to The Herald, Owen Fenn of Govan Community Project called the mass eviction “a brewing humanitarian crisis for Glasgow”.
This is not the Glasgow I know – an accepting, multicultural city that welcomes all no matter who you are or where you come from. Despite not being Scottish and only living in the city for four years, I still consider myself Glaswegian through and through: once you live in Glasgow, you’re always a Glaswegian. While the possibility of mass eviction for the would-be refugees is the antithesis of Glasgow’s spirit, it does embody the lack of empathy and disregard for humanity that comes when private corporations are given the power by the government to decide who is allowed the basic human right of safe housing.
Serco gave no proper warning to either its residents or refugee charities about the upcoming evictions. Already stretched beyond their limits, charities like Govan Community Project and Glasgow Night Shelter, will struggle to provide even temporary housing for those who will be made homeless. Currently, Serco provides housing for 5000 asylum seekers in Glasgow, raising the question of what happens if the company decides these people also don’t meet their criteria for accommodation. Private companies should not have the power to leave vulnerable people homeless and councils should not be helpless to provide emergency support for people living in their city.
Where Glasgow’s government officials have failed, as usual, the city’s citizens are rising to the task of holding Serco accountable. A protest has been organised for Tuesday evening against the mass eviction and to show solidarity with those seeking refuge. (If you live in Glasgow or Scotland, contact your local MP and council about the eviction and ask what action they’re taking to protect refugees). Although the eviction is happening in Glasgow, this is not just one city’s problem. Similar evictions have been happening throughout the UK – Glasgow is simply speaking up about it. The UK’s Home Office needs to be held accountable for giving private companies the power to make people homeless and throw lives into turmoil.
Many of those who face eviction are in the process of appealing their asylum cases, but that will become almost impossible without access to proper accommodation.
Money is urgently needed to help charities that provide support, information, and emergency shelter to asylum seekers and refugees. If you’re unable to join the protest, solidarity can be shown by donating to Scottish-based refugee charities like Glasgow Night Shelterand Refugee Survival Trust. Because of the UK’s legal system, many homeless charities cannot provide shelter to asylum seekers without refugee status; for example, Rape Crisis cannot assist homeless and vulnerable women who haven’t been granted asylum. Because Glasgow Night Shelter can only provide emergency services for men – and there is no equivalent women’s shelter in Glasgow – the eviction will leave migrant women vulnerable on the streets.
In 2012, Theresa May, then home secretary, told The Telegraph that she was going to create a “really hostile reception” to illegal immigrants. Six years later, as Prime Minister, May has done just that and the mass eviction in Glasgow is a direct, inhumane consequence of her anti-immigration ambitions. Instead of working with asylum seekers, refugees and charities, the Home Office and its private housing companies have instead chosen to make vulnerable people homeless.
Those threatened with eviction face destitution, a horrendous situation to be in. Seeking safety in the UK, these people have fled war-torn countries and trauma, only to be met with more hostility and more instability. We have a responsibility to aid the most vulnerable in this country. Glasgow proudly states that it is its people who make it, and this includes those who have sought refuge in the city. Now is the time to show that it’s everyone who makes Glasgow.