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Charities demand an end to refugee evictions in crisis

CHARITIES in Scotland urged the Home Office and asylum housing contractors yesterday to prevent evictions during the coronavirus pandemic by pausing all enforcement measures.

Representatives from the Scottish Refugee Council, Shelter, and other groups supporting refugees wrote to providers Serco and Mears to ask for an end to lock-change evictions and other measures.

Scotland’s Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said that evictions in both the private and social sector would be banned for six months, heeding calls from Scottish Labour and a range of charities.

But asylum-seekers in Scotland have been facing the threat of lock-change evictions from Serco since June 2018, with a legal challenge to the process being taken to the Supreme Court.

In a letter, the groups said they “hope” a no-evictions policy had already been agreed for all renters for the duration of the outbreak, asking for confirmation.

The charities also recommended that the Home Office start paying providers for the associated costs of the provision of accommodation until the pandemic is over.

The letter asks that access to asylum support be reinstated for everybody in asylum accommodation, which should be sustainably funded for the duration of the pandemic.

Shelter Scotland’s Alison Watson said: “We cannot stand by and allow people to be evicted, regardless of their immigration status.

“A cast-iron guarantee that none of them will lose their homes during this emergency is needed urgently.”

A campaign by tenants’ union Living Rent has also called on the government to impose a rent holiday.

Living Rent’s David Hanson said: “The government must, as a matter of urgency, guarantee these people the protections we need and have these rents written off.”

Mears and Serco confirmed they would discuss the groups’ letter with other stakeholders, with “repossession” activities now stalled.

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