The Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster has called the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and Glasgow City Council to account over the threatened removal of 1300 asylum seekers from their Glasgow homes with only a couple of days’ notice.
On Wednesday 19 January the Committee will hear evidence from both the UK Borders Agency and Glasgow City Council.
Damian Green, Minister of State for Immigration at the Home Office will be the first witness. Followed by Phil Taylor, Regional Director for the Scotland and Northern Ireland Region (Immigration Group) of the Home Office. Matthew Coats, Head of Immigration at UKBA will also face the Committee.
When Committee Chair Ian Davidson of Glasgow South West, met with the UK Borders Agency in Glasgow in November when the situation arose, he said: ‘We are very concerned about the impact of the UK Border Agency’s decision to terminate its contract with Glasgow City Council. In particular, we find the manner in which UKBA communicated its decision to the individuals and families involved – via a letter threatening only a very short notice period for people to leave their homes – extremely troubling. The aim of our inquiry is not only to establish the facts around this case but also to ensure everything possible is done so that families do not have to endure such a distressing situation again.’
Following months of negotiations, the UKBA abruptly terminated its 10-year-contract with Glasgow City Council to provide accommodation for asylum seekers.
Soon after that, Glasgow Central MP Anas Sarwar brokered a meeting in Glasgow of all the agencies concerned, including the housing providers, the Scottish Refugee Council and social work back-up staff.
Scotland Office Minister, David Mundell, attended the round table discussion in the City Chambers to hear, first-hand, the distress caused by the UK Borders Agency when it cancelled the housing contract.
Said MP Anas Sarwar: ‘We need UKBA to come up with a realistic timetable for a transfer of people and staff, that will not involve any more upheaval for 1,311 people who have suffered enough. It’s vital this timetable is communicated effectively to all concerned.
‘I’m pleased that David Mundell has agreed to take these objectives back to immigration Minister Damian Green.’
Mr Mundell told the LOCAL NEWS: ‘These difficulties are no reflection on the quality of service Glasgow City Council has provided nor of the welcome that has been extended. That has been outstanding.’
Glasgow City Councillor Matt Kerr, Executive Member for Social Care, said: ‘It was a constructive meeting. I’m pleased that UKBA acknowledged that the 2 February transfer deadline will not now be met. As a city council we’re obviously hugely disappointed that this contract has been terminated by UKBA despite the fact that we came back with a reduced offer when the initial offer was rejected as too costly. However, we have a duty of care to asylum seekers and to staff and we will continue to support them through this transition process, however long it takes.’