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Serco given go-ahead by Supreme Court to use lock-change evictions on refugees in Glasgow

SERCO can legally carry out lock changes to evict refugees in Glasgow after an appeal case was rejected by the Supreme Court in a “deeply disappointing” decision. 

In 2018, the privateer, which provided accommodation for refugees on behalf of the Home Office, said it would evict 300 people from their homes if they were no longer eligible for asylum support. 

The company was forced to pause the evictions after a legal challenge was brought by Govan Law Centre and homelessness campaigners.

But on Monday evening, the court refused the appeal in the case of Kurdish Iraqi national Shakar Ali against Serco Group plc on the grounds that it did not raise an arguable point of law.

The decision means that all eviction cases put on hold awaiting the appeal’s outcome will be permitted.

Positive Action in Housing director Robina Qureshi said that the decision, at a time when every government, housing and financial institution is working to ensure people do not get put out of their homes, was “deeply disappointing.”

“We hope that Serco will not act out lock-change evictions at this time of emergency when more vulnerable people are at increased risk of homelessness,” she said.

Govan Law Centre solicitor Mike Dailly said: “We are deeply disappointed with this decision, but our immediate concern is for the health, safety and wellbeing of our clients and everyone in Serco accommodation in Glasgow during the Covid-19 crisis.

“We hope Serco will act responsibly and in the wider public interest in the present circumstances.”

The legal group said it will be considering what further steps can be taken.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission, which acted as an intervener in the permission to appeal, said the decision was “concerning for the protection of human rights where services are delivered by private contractors.”

Serco contract director for asylum accommodation Jenni Halliday said the firm was pleased with the decision and that its legal position has been confirmed.

She added that Serco had ceased repossession activity some weeks ago as a result of Covid-19.

The company was contracted by the Home Office to house asylum-seekers for seven years between 2012 and 2019.

The Home Office spokesperson said: “The health and safety of people in accommodation and the community is of the utmost importance.

“We continue to update our processes where required, including by reinstating support on a case-by-case basis.” 

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