Crunch talks offer housing lifeline to asylum seekers
BYLINE: By STEWART PATERSON Political correspondent
TALKS took place today as around 1000 asylum seekers waited to find out if they will be moved from their homes.
Last week the Evening Times revealed notices had dropped through letter boxes in Glasgow telling asylum seekers to be ready to move at as little as three days notice.
The shock announcement followed the ending of a contract to house asylum seekers in a row over costs between Glasgow City Council and the UK Border Agency.
Home Office and council officials met today to discuss how the support services provided by the council can still be delivered now the contract has ended.
There are fears for job losses within the council s asylum support services and at Blindcraft, which supplies furniture to those given temporary accommodation in the city.
The council provides help and advice on a range of issues including health and education.
The council wanted to increase the bill, while the UKBA is looking to reduce costs, with fewer asylum seekers being sent to the city.
Officials are hopeful that most of those who received the letter will be able to stay in their current homes and it is now looking unlikely there will be a mass exodus from Glasgow.
It is hoped that other housing providers, namely YPeople (formerly Glasgow YMCA) and private firm Angel Group Ltd will take over agreements to lease homes from housing associations, including GHA, to avoid large scale disruption.
It is understood the YMCA could have spare capacity to house many more, but have yet to be formally approached.
A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said they will seek to co-operate with UKBA to ensure services are transferred.
It is hoped today s meeting will give more clarity on how asylum services will be delivered in the future.
The meeting comes 24 hours after protesters took to the streets of Glasgow to demonstrate against the changes.
Protests took place outside the City Chambers yesterday by people concerned about the future of housing and support service jobs.
Protester Chris Dempster, 25, a charity worker from Ibrox, said: It is ridiculous to get only one weeks notice.
I m here to show support for the council supporting housing people see these as their homes and don t want Angel housing or YMCA they want to stay with the council.
They have communities and know the local area
Asylum seeker Arshad Mehmood, 34, from Scotstoun, said: I am happy in council accommodation.
Our children are at school and my wife and I are at college we have good connections with Scottish society. Our life will be spoiled we are being treated like cattle.
And fellow asylum seeker Rana Ali, 45, from Scotstoun, said: I have three children one daughter has already had to move school three times. She is very upset because she doesn t want to move school again.
A council spokesman, said: Negotiations had been ongoing since May and the most recent offer was rejected.
The council could not deliver the services at a loss or we would have been subsiding the Home Office.
A spokeswoman for the UKBA said: This is a regular meeting we have to discuss arrangements and the details of transfer of services will be discussed.
Joe Connolly, chief executive of YPeople, said: YPeople already provides accommodation and support services for approximately 1100 asylum seekers at a range of properties in Glasgow.
As a charity, we are committed to the welfare and well-being of all asylum seekers in Glasgow.