“We can’t just blame Serco” says RST

Small Scottish charity Refugee Survival Trust has welcomed the news that Serco has temporarily paused their plans to change the locks of 330 asylum seekers who are overstaying their tenancy agreements, but says that the problem is bigger than Serco.

A number of protests were organised in Glasgow after Serco released their plans, and there was widespread anger from the public and NGOs, but the charity says that this frustration cannot only be directed at the accommodation provider.

Coordinator Zoe Holliday said: “Serco should not evict these 330 individuals without giving them time to resolve their situation. But our asylum system should not be leaving hundreds of people reliant on the decisions of a private corporation for a roof over their heads. Nor should thousands of individuals and families be in a situation where they have to turn to small charities like ours in order to be able to meet their most basic daily needs.

“Current policies and administrative procedures lack humanity and are driving thousands of asylum seekers into destitution; there should be as much, if not more, outrage at the failings of local and national government as there is about the Serco evictions proposals.

“Serco’s planned evictions are the final nail in the coffin for these 330 asylum seekers in Glasgow,” said Zoe, “but the real question is: why is the coffin there at all?”

RST is calling for five changes which could prevent such extreme outcomes in the future, including:

  1. Addressing delays and errors in the benefits system, which are not only affecting asylum seekers and refugees but also Scottish people, leading to significant increases in demand for crisis grants from people of all backgrounds.
  2. Increasing the move-on period – when a refugee receives a positive decision on their asylum claim, they have just 28 days to move on from asylum support to mainstream benefits and employment. But this process usually takes much longer. RST supports the British Red Cross’s proposal for this period to be increased to 50 days.
  3. Giving asylum seekers the right to work – the UK is one of the only countries in Europe where asylum seekers do not have the right to work after a certain time period. If asylum seekers are able to earn their own living, it will in turn reduce costs of welfare, improve mental wellbeing, and make it more likely that those who are given leave to remain are in a position to support themselves and pay their own rent.
  4. Allowing fresh claims and evidence submissions online or at the local Home Office branch – for many, providing further evidence or opening a fresh claim is the best chance of resolving their case and being given leave to remain. However, this has to be done in person in Liverpool and for many it is impossible to cover the cost of travel.
  5. Providing financial support for crisis grants to asylum seekers – currently, Scottish nationals and refugees are eligible to receive crisis grants from the Scottish Welfare Fund, but the same support is not available to asylum seekers, who are reliant on third sector organisations like the Refugee Survival Trust when they find themselves in an emergency situation.

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