100 join protest against plans to evict asylum seekers

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Around 100 people protested outside a Home Office building on Saturday amid ongoing opposition to plans to evict more than 300 asylum seekers.

The latest demonstration at the Brand Street offices in Glasgow was backed by charity Positive Action in Housing, the Church of Scotland and Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees.

Campaigners burned eviction notices in protest over plans by Home Office contractors Serco to evict up to 330 asylum seekers in Glasgow who have been refused refugee status.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said the force estimated that around 100 people took part in the peaceful demo.

It followed protests in the city centre and outside the Brand Street office last week, as well as a hunger strike by two Afghan men facing eviction.

Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, described the evictions as “immoral, irresponsible and frankly dangerous”.

She appealed to the charity’s 150 member organisations, many of which are Glasgow-based housing associations, to use their powers to stop the evictions with actions such as the prevention of lock changes.

She said several associations with lease agreements with Serco had already stepped forward to outline their opposition to the evictions.

“All our efforts this past week have been to avert a humanitarian disaster taking place on our streets as Serco slowly dumps 330 refugees and asylum seekers on to the streets of Glasgow with seven-day notices,” she said.

Serco revealed plans last weekend to begin changing the locks on accommodation.

The public services group said it had provided housing for months in some cases for those without the right to remain in the UK, without recompense from the Home Office and at a cost of more than £1 million a year, which it claimed should be borne by the local authority.

Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken said these costs should be taken on by the Home Office, and has made repeated calls to Home Secretary Sajid Javid to step in and halt the evictions.

The council is also examining whether it can extend its general power of welfare to help those who face having their locks changed, many of whom are young, single men.

Meanwhile housing charity Shelter Scotland’s housing law service is to represent two of the asylum seekers facing eviction.

Director Graeme Brown said: “Our legal team will be presenting papers to Glasgow Sheriff Court on Monday morning along with the legal services agency who act for a third individual to try and get interim orders that will prevent the lock changes threatened to our clients.

“Our clients are actively working with immigration lawyers to resolve their asylum claims. Interim orders temporarily stopping the lock changes will allow this work to continue with our clients having a home to live in.”

Serco chief executive Rupert Soames has said lock-change notices would be given to no more than 10 people a week for the next four weeks.

He said none of these would be families with children and all will be people who the Home Office considers to have exhausted their appeal process and no longer have the right to remain.

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