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OUTSOURCING giant Serco has lost the contract to house refugees in Scotland after an uproar over its evictions policy, but a Labour MP has warned that bad treatment will continue unless government policy is changed.
The Home Office announced that Mears Group will take over the provision of asylum-seeker housing from September.
Serco was slammed last summer for announcing that it would change the locks on the doors of residents who had been refused refugee status.
After protests, a campaign to resist evictions and a hunger strike by two asylum-seekers, the company announced a “pause.”
Serco immigration chief Julia Rogers said the company was “obviously disappointed” at the loss of the contract, insisting that “our team in Glasgow has delivered a service that has seen the asylum-seekers in our care treated with dignity and respect.”
But Graham O’Neill of the Scottish Refugee Council said: “We’ve heard how people have been left in despair after being treated with a lack of dignity and respect from accommodation staff and how frightened people were after Serco locked people out of their homes.
“It is time for a new approach and in Glasgow we welcome this new chapter in supporting people seeking refugee protection.
“Providing housing to people in need is an essential public service and the rights, needs and dignity of people seeking refugee protection must be at the heart of the Mears Group’s work as they take over from Serco.”
Scottish Labour MP Paul Sweeney, a vocal critic of Serco’s evictions policy last summer, said the company had “demonstrated they’re extremely poor corporate citizens.”
He speculated that “public pressure” had contributed to the outsourcing giant losing the contract but warned that Serco was still pressing ahead with evictions until it hands over the keys to Mears in September.
Mr Sweeney told the Star that a change of contractor might not make a difference unless the Home Office specifies different terms in its contract.
“In some ways, it doesn’t matter who the delivery organisation is if it’s bound to act in a certain way,” the Glasgow North East MP said.
“That’s the fundamental flaw of having this contract run by a profit-seeking organisation. Our preferred option would have been to allow councils and housing associations to take the contracts back in-house, but that wasn’t an option [under government rules].
“I hope [Mears] will recognise the failure of Serco and learn the lessons, so I look forward to engaging with them at the earliest opportunity.”
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