by Martin Graham
ONE HUNDRED and fifty people braved the cold and hail on Saturday morning to attend a rally at the UKBA building at Brand Street, Govan, to protest at plans to evict up to 200 asylum seekers from their homes.
Charity Ypeople, formerly YMCA, are set to evict up to 140 people seeking sanctuary after losing a government contract to Serco.
Serco is an international service company which also operates tagging schemes for offenders, runs prisons and has business at Guantanamo Bay.
Ypeople had been allowing refugees whose asylum claims had been refused, to remain in their homes. But under the new contract they may be forced to evict these tenants. Ypeople said that the profit on this contract for the UK Borders Authority (UKBA) was used to enable people to say on over the contracted time.
Speakers at the rally included Kingsway campaigner and former Scotswoman of the year Noreen Real.
Noreen said: “I will fight with the last breath in my body to stop our government treating people like animals. We’re not dealing with animals, we’re dealing with human beings. Stop starving them out, stop putting them out on the street.”
EIS president elect Susan Quinn said: “We are being asked in schools to develop curriculums where we promote citizenship and understanding, where we promote empathy, yet what are our leaders doing? Our leaders are doing the exact opposite of what we teach our young people.”
Phil Jones from Unity support centre said: “There are proposals to house refugees in board-only accommodation. They could be housed in hostels with only food and no money.”
A temporary night shelter in the city is already attracting an average of ten people a night. There are also known to be a large number of rejected asylum seekers in Glasgow who have a roof over the head only because friends let them sleep on their sofa.
‘It’s a matter of great regret that UKBA has terminated its contract for the council to receive asylum seekers. Asylum seekers have brought welcome diversity to the city and added new life to many of our communities.’
So said a spokesperson of the Glasgow City Council (GCC) in the wake of the news that negotiations between themselves and the United Kingdom Border Agency terminally broken down on 5 November. UKBA have cancelled a contract, worth £10 million annually, with GCC meaning the Council will no longer house and support asylum seekers. The immediate result is 1300 people from Glasgow’s vast asylum-seeking community facing upheaval.
What are the implications of this decision? Firstly, it shuts down a historic programme in Glasgow- unique to Scotland- that saw the Council welcoming asylum seekers. Naturally then, the termination of this deal could stem the flow of asylum seekers to Glasgow.
Aside from the GCC, asylum seekers in Glasgow are homed by private sector agencies, the main two being Y People (formerly YMCA) and the Angel Group. There are approximately 1300 asylum seekers currently housed by the Council and under the conditions of the termination, GCC will continue supporting these people until February of 2011.
However, an alleged 600 asylum seekers have already received letters from the UKBA warning that they are no longer provided for by GCC and that they could be requested to move, with only a few days notice, in the coming weeks. This letter has sparked huge unrest within Glasgow’s asylum community, with many heading to the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC), desperate for more information.
John Wilkes, SRC Chief Executive said: ‘The situation is still developing and as the principle advice agency for asylum seekers, we will be working with all parties to ensure that we are able to provide accurate and up-to-date information as soon as it is available.’
It is unclear whether the UKBA will seek to re-home those 1300 people in Glasgow, through agencies such as Y People and Angel, or whether they will seek to distribute them throughout Scotland of even the UK. A spokesperson for UKBA said it is too early in the process to know what will happen.
Earlier in the week, Phil Taylor, Scottish UKBA Regional Director, said: ‘We will work with our providers to ensure that all asylum seekers currently housed under contract with GCC continue to be properly accommodated while their asylum claims are considered and their appeals to the courts are concluded.’
Y People, who provide accommodation for approximately 1100 asylum seekers in Glasgow, said they have heard nothing regarding the contract and whether they will be asked to provide further housing. Y People Chief Executive Joe Connolly said: ‘ As a charity, we are committed to the welfare and well-being of all asylum seekers in Glasgow.’ The Angel Group offered no comment on the situation despite several requests from the LOCAL NEWS GLASGOW.
Despite a year of negotiations, 1300 people sit tonight entrenched in uncertainty, unaware of where they will be going, when they will going and who will help them. ‘And,’ said John Wilkes, ‘These are people who have fled traumatic situations involving persecution, torture and violence.’
The YMCA is this month running the Citizenship Course. This will include four classes in the YMCA building as well as excursions to relative locations throughout the city. The course will be of great aid to anyone who may need to take the 45 minute Citizenship Test, a crucial step for anyone looking to settle permanently in the UK.
Interested in the Citizenship course? Contact the YMCA for more details:
3 Newton Terrace