Activism

Protesters demand end of refugees being made homeless ahead of Christmas: 'We're failing people'

"Refugees are some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and we’re continually failing people,” said one campaigner, with 1,400 refugees in Glasgow expected to be evicted into homelessness

Glasgow refugee

Authorities in Glasgow have warned of 'unprecedented pressure' on homelessness services as refugees are evicted. Image: Living Rent Scotland

Protesters have called for an end to asylum seeker evictions, with up to 1,400 refugees in Glasgow facing homelessness by Christmas.

Members of Living Rent Scotland gathered outside the office of Mears, which provides housing for all supported asylum seekers in the city, and demanded the company halt the evictions of those whose claims are processed.

At least 698 people have been evicted from Home Office accommodation in the city since August, figures newly released by Glasgow Council reveal, with 211 placed in B&B and hotel accommodation by the council.

“Despite receiving huge amounts of money from UK taxpayers, Mears is set to evict 1,400 refugees, seemingly with little concern for those in the safety of their care,” said Bianca Lopez, chair of Glasgow Living Rent.

Holding a large banner, the activists waved placards stating the people of Glasgow are watching the company.

“It’s never ending stress and anxiety. Refugees are some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and we’re continually failing people,” Lopez told The Big Issue.

Read the Big Issue’s coverage of the growing refugee homelessness crisis:

Calls are growing for an end to the evictions, with Glasgow City Council asking the government to pause the “unconscionable” process.

“The pressures we are facing constitute an emergency and we agree with partners that we urgently need resources to help us deal with them. We are calling on the Scottish government to give further resource in their budget later this year, which Glasgow is ready and able to direct at pace,” councillor Allan Casey, city convener for workforce, homelessness and addiction, told The Big Issue.

“We also need the UK government to pause their unconscionable asylum-batching decisions, which is already causing homelessness and destitution, until they work with us to get a proper plan in place to do this properly, and agree to fully fund the consequences of their action.”

Sarah Doyle, Liverpool’s cabinet member for housing, told The Big Issue the processing of claims should be halted, as the city braces for an expected 1,000 homeless refugees by Christmas.

“This absolute rush, just so the government can say we’ve cleared the home office backlog – at what cost is that going to be? Councils are going to go under.”

Mears provides housing for all supported asylum seekers in Glasgow. Image: Living Rent

Glasgow authorities have warned of “unprecedented pressure” on homelessness services, as the Home Office closes hotels and rapidly processes claims in a bid to clear the backlog by Christmas.

Asylum accommodation is outsourced by the Home Office, with the bill reaching £8m a day. Mears, one of those awarded a contract, raked in around £300m from doing so in 2022.

The company recorded £34m in pre-tax profits in 2022, and credited increased revenue from asylum seeker accommodation with boosting its profits. Dealing with the influx of homeless refugees could cost Glasgow council £53m, with the government providing no extra funding.

Protesters held banners including one reading: “We won’t let you evict our neighbours.” Image: Living Rent

“We know mears have the money. We know this crisis is going to need so many approaches to it, to make sure everybody does have a safe house,” said Lopez.

“But in the short term, people are already housed, and it’s up to Mears to say they’re not going to throw 1,400 people onto the streets over Christmas.”

The move to clear the backlog and get people out of an often traumatic asylum system is positive, Lopez said, but little regard had been given to what happens next. “There’s just been no thought about where refugees will be housed afterwards,” Lopez said.

Glasgow is just one part of a nationwide crisis. As The Big Issue revealed last week, the number of refugees evicted into homelessness has tripled year-on-year.

Alongside those granted refugee status, there are also fears for asylum seekers whose cases are rejected.

“There is every likelihood that Glasgow will see an increased pattern of people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) rough sleeping as we are seeing in other parts of the UK, requiring intense outreach capacity from third sector, health and social care support for those who are deemed most vulnerable,” wrote Casey, in a report seen by The Big Issue.

In Liverpool, Doyle called for the government to engage properly with local government to make the crisis manageable.

“They should completely halt all these decisions being made,” Doyle told The Big Issue

Instead, the government should work out a plan to clear the backlog in a staggered way, with extra funding available for local authorities.

Mears declined to comment, and directed us to the Home Office. A government spokesperson said: “Once someone is informed that their asylum claim has been granted, they get at least 28 days notice to move on from their asylum accommodation. 

“Support is offered to newly recognised refugees by Migrant Help and their partners, which includes advice on how to access the Universal Credit, the labour market and where to get assistance with housing. 

“We work with local authorities to help communities manage the impact of asylum decisions.” 

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