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The Scottish Refugee Council has warned that a two-tier system of housing rights is emerging after a legal bid to prevent failed asylum seekers being evicted without a court order was dismissed by Scotland’s highest court.
The case against the Home Office and Serco was launched last August, after the private housing provider started to implement controversial plans to change the locks on the accommodation of hundreds of asylum seekers who had been told they could not stay in the UK.
Glasgow city council called on the Home Office to intervene on three occasions, stating that making hundreds of vulnerable individuals destitute could spark a humanitarian crisis on the streets, and Serco was eventually forced to pause the evictions while the court case was ongoing.
The court of session ruling, published on Friday, centred around the legality of Serco’s lock change procedures, which the company described as its “Move On Protocol”, under Scottish housing law and human rights legislation.
But in a 29-page opinion by Lord Tyre, the judge concluded: “I am satisfied that neither of the pursuers has made out a relevant case for any of the orders sought.”
Responding to the ruling, Graham O’Neill, policy officer at the Scottish Refugee Council, said: “People in Scotland are protected from summary eviction and immediate homelessness under mainstream Scots housing law. But today’s ruling states that a whole group of men and women are outside this protection, denying them the same rights as everyone else in Scotland.”
Although Serco has said that it will not be taking immediate action as a result of Friday’s ruling, O’Neill said that “serious and urgent” consideration must now be given to providing emergency accommodation for the 300 people previously threatened with eviction. He added that the council-led partnership board, which was set up in the wake of the lock change row to oversee the Home Office and its contractors in Glasgow and is the first of its kind in the UK, must ensure that they act “transparently and humanely”.