Asylum seekers deserve better treatment from Border Agency
The Herald (Glasgow)
November 11, 2010 Thursday
For 10 years Glasgow has taken in more asylum-seekers than any other UK city. That is not the result of charity on the part of the city council but of contracting out its resources. The need to provide accommodation for growing numbers of people fleeing war or persecution in their homelands coincided with a drop in the population of Glasgow, resulting in empty homes and spare capacity in schools.
It suited both the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and the city council in Glasgow for asylum-seekers to be dispersed to Scotland because it relieved pressure on hard-pressed local authorities in London and the south-east of England, and provided a new income stream for Glasgow. The current contract is worth about £10m annually to the council for providing accommodation through Glasgow Housing Association and support services for around 1300 people. It has been abruptly terminated by UKBA after a failure to agree new terms with the council because of a sharp decrease in the numbers and a greater proportion of single people rather than families needing to be housed.
The city council is not the only agency accommodating asylum-seekers in Glasgow. The charity YMCA (now known as Ypeople) and Angel Group, a private sector company, each has around 200 properties in Glasgow that are used to accommodate asylum-seekers and UKBA now expects them to absorb most of those supported by the council. But the arithmetic doesn t add up, so some will be required to move further away.
In a letter to 600 households, the UKBA shows little concern for the impact of this forced removal on people who have already fled their homeland and whose lives are in limbo until they know whether they will be allowed to remain in the country. The instructions are terse. They will be given three to five days notice to move whenever possible and can take only two pieces of luggage per person, plus baby equipment, children s toys and disability aids.
The only recognition of the difficulties caused to children who have to change school suddenly is an undertaking to try to rehouse families with children who sit external exams this year (citing the English GCSE and A levels or equivalents ) within three miles of their present address.
Such a document is bound to cause panic in a situation where calm and order is required. The UKBA, in common with other government departments (and local authorities such as Glasgow) must make economies in these straitened times. That is no excuse for brutal tactics when what is actually required is a speeding up of an asylum appeals process that can leave applicants dependent on the state for years. The experience of Glasgow and its citizens in helping asylum-seekers to integrate should not be casually dismissed or wasted. The city s door should be left open.