Small Scottish charity Refugee Survival Trust has expressed its concern following the news that Serco is to start evicting failed asylum seekers in Glasgow today (Monday 30 July).
Serco, a private firm housing thousands of refugees in Glasgow, says that it will issue the first six out a potential 300 “lock change” notices today. Without Leave to Remain and with No Recourse to Public Funds, there are very few options open to those affected, the majority of whom are likely to end up homeless and reliant on support from small charities like the Refugee Survival Trust and its partners.
The Refugee Survival Trust, a small Scottish charity with fewer than five full time staff, provides last resort destitution grants to asylum seekers, failed asylum seekers and new refugees. The grant rates are normally £36 per week (just under the current level of government support for asylum seekers) for two weeks.
Despite the small size and one-off nature of the grants, over the past year (from July 2017 to June 2018) the Refugee Survival Trust has distributed more than £130,000 worth of emergency destitution grants to asylum seekers and refugees in Scotland who had nowhere else to turn. This represents a 100% increase in demand over the past two years, and the charity is struggling to meet demand. Even before the latest news from Serco, the Refugee Survival Trust had been appealing to the public to donate to support its grants, for which funding is “dangerously low”
Coordinator Zoe Holliday says “The Refugee Survival Trust has seen applications to our emergency destitution grants programme reach an all-time high over the past year, with no signs of abating. We have been struggling to meet this demand and there is a very real possibility that funds will run out in the near future, leaving thousands of incredibly vulnerable people in Scotland without this essential safety net.
“There are shocking levels of destitution within the asylum system in the UK. In the Greater Glasgow area alone last year we helped more than 2000 asylum seekers and refugees – including hundreds of children – who applied to us for help to meet their most basic daily needs like food, shelter and transport.
“The news that Serco intends to evict up to 300 people before they have the chance to appeal decisions or make alternative living arrangements is of significant concern to us. Third sector organisations in Glasgow like the Refugee Survival Trust are already stretched to the limit and simply do not have the capacity to meet this sudden surge in demand for people needing accommodation and financial support.
“We appeal for compassion – for Serco to reconsider their decision to lock people who already face shocking hardship and emotional distress out of their homes; for local and national government to amend the policies and procedures that are driving individuals into destitution and to provide administrative and financial support to the third sector; and to the public, to donate their time and money to small organisations like ours so that we can do our best to support some of the most vulnerable people in our country, at a time when the country is unfortunately not supporting them.”
The Scottish Government is now two months overdue in following up the recommendations in the Hidden Lives – New Beginnings: Destitution, Asylum and Insecure Immigration Status in Scotland report, which recognised the “essential safety net” provided by third sector, voluntary and charitable organisations and included a call “to investigate the potential to create a Crisis Fund, which could provide a central point from which to gather data on the scale and nature of destitution in Scotland and thereafter inform the direction of policy and funding decisions” by May 2018.