Fury and fear over removal of asylum seekers
The Herald (Glasgow)
November 11, 2010 Thursday
BYLINE: GERRY BRAIDEN
MORE than 1000 Glasgow-based asylum seekers have been told they could be removed from their homes in the city and sent elsewhere in Scotland with just a few days notice.
Following the decision to cancel a contract with the council to house and support them, about 600 asylum-seeker households received letters over the weekend from the UK Border Agency telling them that whenever possible they will be moved on with three to five days notice.
There are concerns the 1300 asylum seekers will get little more than a day to pack their belongings and remove their children from schools before being relocated to an unknown destination.
The notice has caused fear and alarm, with more than 50 asylum seekers waiting for the doors of the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) to open on Monday to find out what was happening.
The SRC had to shut for a time during the day to deal with the volume of concerned clients.
The letters warn the recipients they could be moved to elsewhere in the Scotland region .
Those being moved on are expected to take up accommodation and assistance from either the YMCA or the Angel Group, which was set up in 1999.
Questions remain about the joint capacity of these organisations to house 1300 asylum seekers in Glasgow or across Scotland but Home Office sources insist they can.
The Herald reported on Saturday that the previous day the city council had been informed by the Border Agency of its decision to axe the contract, currently worth almost £10 million annually, after the two sides failed to reach an agreement over what financial support the authority should get.
The move could also reduce by half the number of asylum seekers coming to Glasgow, with the authority claiming this could damage the diversity brought to the city by the programme.
Glasgow is seeking £5m compensation for the termination of the agreement almost a year early. Neither the council nor any of its elected members received prior warning that UKBA would be writing to its clients.
The letter states: We must inform you that as a result of the change of your accommodation provider you may be required to move to alternative accommodation in the Scotland region.
Whenever possible, you will be given three to five days notice of the move to give you time to get ready. At the moment we cannot give you an exact date for any potential move. However, it will be sometime within the coming weeks.
You will be allowed to take two pieces of luggage per person to your new accommodation. In addition to this, children s toys and other effects, baby care items, medical equipment, buggies and/or prams and disability aids required by you or any dependants are also allowed.
The matter is now expected to be taken to Westminster, with SNP MP Pete Wishart lodging a series of parliamentary questions, while party colleague and Glasgow MSP Anne McLaughlin has also been pursuing the matter.
John Wilkes, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, said: Glasgow City Council has had a 10-year history of providing housing and support services for people seeking sanctuary in this city and has worked hard to ensure refugees and those seeking asylum are well integrated into Scottish society. The potential termination of this contract is a big disappointment.
A UKBA spokeswoman said: We are working with our providers to ensure that all asylum seekers currently housed under contract with Glasgow City Council continue to be properly accommodated while their asylum claims are concluded.
We will provide as much notice as possible and we have already contacted the affected service users to provide them with up-to-date information. We will continue to liaise with them to ensure this process causes as little disruption as possible.