At least three asylum seekers in Glasgow have been locked out of their accommodation by Ypeople without warning. Each was left in the clothes he was standing in but with all his worldly goods behind the unyielding door.
The Christian charity, Ypeople, has lost the accommodation contract to house asylum seekers in Glasgow. The UK Borders Agency (UKBA) has given the £175 million contract to SERCO Group plc, instead, a British registered private service company which runs detention centres around the world.
Said Jeremiah from Zimbabwe whose case is in the process of being presented for a judicial review : ‘When I couldn’t open the door on Monday morning, I went to my lawyer. He told me to speak to the Home Office. They said I had to move everything out by tonight (Monday 14 May). I’ve lived here for four years and said that was impossible, they told me to have everything moved by 2pm on Tuesday. This makes no sense and is very stressful. They should at least give me some time to remove my things.’
Ako, an asylum seeker from Kurdistan where he is a human rights activist and a journalist, encountered a similar situation but was allowed back into his flat after two nights sleeping at a temporary night shelter in the city’s West End. He said: ‘I can’t sleep and feel bad.’ He was subsequently given a key to the new lock and is now back in his original flat after he and his friends put pressure on Ypeople.
Mohamed from the Sudan has been without support for more than one year. His Cranhill flat’s lock was changed without notice last week. He said: ‘When I went to the Ypeople’s office they told me to come back the next day if I wanted my clothes. I stayed with a friend that night and am still waiting on my clothes being returned to me.’
A charity registered in Scotland, Ypeople’s mission is: ‘to provide support to vulnerable groups and individuals including the homeless, refugees, asylum seekers and young people to enable them to adapt to change and improve their quality of life.’
The chief executive, Joe Connolly, was asked for a statement on the lockout situation but his office referred this website’s enquiry to public relations company the Big Partnership and a response was still awaited some hours after the initial enquiry and subsequent reminders.
The charity’s last annual report states that it looked after 2200 ‘service users’ in 1150 properties and homes across the city. ‘We are committed to providing high quality services,’ is part of Ypeople’s mission along with the commitment to ‘recognise the right of individuals and treat them with respect.’
At Ypeople’s head office in Govan’s industrial estate at Moorpark, their certificates are on display from the Home Office as a ‘recognised Supplier 2011′ and for Investors in People and as a member of the Glasgow Social Care Providers’ Forum as well as Quality Scotland membership.
Jock Morris, Chairman of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees said: ‘We know of at least four people over the weekend who have had the locks changed in their homes, without warning. We met Joe Connolly and Glasgow’s Social Work chiefs two weeks ago and were assured no locks would be changed without people being told well in advance and that the Social Work department would ‘bend over backwards’ to help anyone affected – so this behaviour is irresponsible. These people have not been honest with us.’
On Monday, Unity, a group supportive of asylum seekers, held a demonstration with the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees and others outside Brand Street where the UK BA offices are located in Govan. Later they moved to Ypeople’s offices a few streets away and set up their demonstration there.
Said a Unity spokesman: ‘Joe Connelly agreed to send a letter out to people explaining the processes and giving dates of when things will be taking place. No letter has been received by Mohamed, nor any of the individuals we’ve been in touch with. Once again, Y-People have failed to deal with vulnerable asylum seekers in a fair and honest manner. By using dirty tricks and giving unclear messages, they have created fear among the asylum seeking community. Some individuals, terrified by the threat of eviction, have gone into hiding,’ claimed the spokesman. He added that around 100 asylum seekers who have had their initial asylum claim refused but are unable or unwilling to return to their home lands, are still in Glasgow. ‘Many of these people are victim of administrative errors and poor decision making on the part of UKBA, yet are now facing imminent homelessness.
‘We’re calling on everyone concerned about this situation, to write to Y-People, expressing their concerns at their dishonest practices and asking them to adhere to due process,’ he said.
See their website for further information and contact details: www.unitycentreglasgow.org or email:email@example.com
Before protesting outside the Ypeople’s offices in Govan, the campaigners had stood in solidarity outside the UKBA offices nearby in Brand Street, Govan to support Angeline Mwafulirqa from Malawi as she signed in. She and her three children had been detained the previous time they signed in. They were taken to a detention centre in England and but, for the loud resistance of Angeline as she was being forced to board a plane back to Africa, the family would have been deported.
Said Angeline: ‘It is not safe for me to go back. I just screamed and made a lot of noise so that the airline – Kenya Airways – knew I would be boarding the plane against my will. I have been in the UK for six years. Two years ago I applied for asylum as I split up from my husband who is also from Malawi. My case for asylum has been refused but it is unsafe for me to go back to Malawi. Local custom there would require my children to be taken by their Father’s family.’
Students at Glasgow University will hold an Austerity Auction today (Wednesday 15 June) to help their Principal’s cause.
Said a student spokesperson: ‘Principal Anton Muscatelli and other members of senior management’s recent £20,000 in bonuses seems rather small. So we’re having an auction to raise funds.’ With tongue firmly in cheek, the spokesperson added: ‘We feel that around 20 or 30 pence will be enough.’
This action is part of a campaign leading up to the Anti-Cuts Action Network (ACAN) demonstration on Wednesday 22 June. The date coincides with the meeting of the University Court which will vote on Muscatelli’s austerity proposals.
The students are based in the Hetherington Club building in University Gardens where there has been a sit-in for 135 days. What started as a protest at the loss of the Club building to post graduate students – to whom it had been gifted – has grown to be the leading students group protesting at savage cuts being programmed by the University.
The Free Hetherington protesters were evicted on Tuesday 22 March, by campus security and around 100 police officers in a heavy handed action that was publicly condemned by many staff, MSPs including Patrick Harvie and the public. On eviction, a massive crowd of students immediately marched to the Senate offices and occupied them. Within a few hours the outcome of round table discussions with University management resulted in the students returning to the Hetherington and continuing their sit-in.
The campaign has already built considerable momentum, with a picket inviting the Principal to quit his addiction to austerity, a stall giving away cake to publicise the demonstration and most recently, a clowning rally. (see photograph)
Cuts still likely to happen include the axing of – Social Work courses, Humanities at the Crichton Campus in Dumfries, Slavonic Studies, The Centre for Drugs Misuse Research and other research projects. DACE – the adult and community learning centre and entry point to the University for many mature students – is likely to be privatised as it generates £1.8m profit a year. Nursing has been given a one year reprieve but is unlikely to be saved as there is an over-abundance of nursing study places in Central Scotland. Courses saved include Archaeology, Classical Studies, most languages and Anthropology.
The local branch of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) recently passed a vote of no confidence in the Principal. First Minister, First Minister Alex Salmond has openly criticised him.
Commented a student spokesperson: ‘The Senate, the academic governing body of the university, has been angered over the last six months by Muscatelli’s disregard for their decisions. Issues such as £13.2 million being spent to replace a perfectly functional IT system is widely viewed as an unnecessary expenditure.’
A spokesman for the University of Glasgow said: “Following an extensive consultation process, the University Court will meet on June 22. Court will decide on the recommendations made through the consultation panels into the re-shaping exercise that is taking place across a number of areas within the University of Glasgow, in line with our strategic plan. A full range of views and opinions have been taken into account, and the aim throughout has been to ensure that the University of Glasgow continues to deliver a world class experience for our students and staff.”
On day 121 of protests at University Cuts, students at the University of Glasgow held a ‘NO CUTS’ demo on Wednesday 1 June.
They were joined by students from their Crichton Campus in Dumfries which is also under threat.
The University Court is due to make a final decision on Wednesday 22 June. And in a series of ‘Wednesday Warm-ups’ for a major rally planned for that date, around 50 gathered with banners outside the Senate to make their voices heard.
Said spokeswoman Suzanne: ‘This is the start of a month long campaign. Many students have now gone home after the exams but an impressive number has stayed behind to fight to save courses in Glasgow and at the Crichton Campus in Dumfries.’
Originally around £20 million worth of cuts were flagged up by the University. But a four month campaign by students and staff, a contentious 3000 strong demonstration and the longest running student occupation in UK history has brought much success to the campaigners.
Courses which have been saved from the axe include: Archaeology, Classical Studies, most languages and Anthropology. Nursing has been given a one year stay of execution. The department of Adult and Continuing Education (DACE) which generates £1.8 million in profit annually, has been privatised.
Students first occupied the Hetherington Club building off University Avenue on 1 February this year. A heavy-handed eviction by Strathclyde Police and campus security was severely criticised by students, staff, members of the public and local MSPs. Within hours, the student protesters had re-occupied the Club premises with the agreement of the University management, to continue their peaceful sit-in protest.
Continued the student spokesperson: ‘The campaign has been successful, so far, in saving a number of courses but many are still under threat. We will intensify pressure on Principal Anton Muscatelli with our series of protests culminating in a march on the University Court on Wednesday 22 June. Our message is clear – NO CUTS!’
Alternatives to the cuts, as proposed by the students, include scrapping the £13.2 million IT consultants’ proposed spend on a website.
Said Ceris Aston a 3rd year Liberal Arts student from Glasgow University’s Crichton Campus: ‘Our website has not been updated since May of last year. But the proposal to withdraw Liberal Arts (Humanities) from Crichton is a slippery slope to closure of the campus.’ She said that 75 of the 200 students in Dumfries were Liberal Arts students. ‘We consider all the cuts are unjust and unnessary both in Glasgow and Dumfries. So we are in Glasgow in solidarity with students and staff here.’
Katy Ewing, a class colleague of Ceris’s added: ‘Our course is amazing and consistently achieves high quality passes but the marketing of Crichton Campus is shoddy.’
As well as the Crichton Campus courses, others in Glasgow still under threat are: Social Work, Slavonic Studies, Scottish Training on Drugs and Alcohol (STRADA) and several research projects.