September 9, 2014: Asylum seekers locked out of homes

The Evening Times, September 9 2014

Vulnerable asylum seekers are being locked out of their homes and left destitute without warning, it was claimed today.

Campaigners claim that Orchard & Shipman, the housing provider which works on behalf of Serco and the Home Office, is routinely performing lock changes on the homes of people who have been refused asylum.

In documents seen by the Evening Times, Serco protocol says a legal process to secure an eviction order should be followed.

However, campaigners say they are concerned that this is not being followed, and are calling for action to stop the lock changes.

In one case, support workers said a woman was forced to leave her home wearing only her pyjamas. Another asylum seeker said he was left without belongings with nowhere to go when he was locked out his home at 7pm on a Friday.

Sheila Arthur, of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, spoke of major concerns with the way asylum seekers were being treated.

She said there had been reports of police being called to homes in a bid to help with the removal of people. She said: “I’ve heard of the police attending when Orchard & Shipman were going to change the locks in somebody’s house.

“I’ve heard about somebody who was actually in their pyjamas and she was told there was a gas leak so they could get her out and the locks were changed.

“There have been cases of people having their locks changed when they’re not there. I’ve heard umpteen cases of people having their locks changed and not being able to get their stuff quickly.

“I’ve also heard about cases where people have got half of their stuff, but not all of it because they’ve not been there to point out what is theirs.”

Sheila said the impact of being locked out leaves people in distress. She said: “Immediately when it happens it devastates people. They are in a very temporary situation, they don’t know what to do. They are always in a vulnerable situation because they are in somebody else’saccommodation.”

Sheila said: “We got in touch with Serco at least six months ago and said we’d heard all this was going on. We asked what their procedures were with dealing with this.

“My understanding was they developed a protocol at that point which said they would forewarn the person. If the person still didn’t leave they would follow due legal process.”

Superintendent Gavin Phillip from Police Scotland said police would only be present at incidents in circumstances where there “exists potential for public disorder or risk to personal safety”.

Chris Flood, Contract Director of Serco Compass contract, said: “We strive to treat asylum seekers with respect at all times and understand what a difficult time this is for these vulnerable people. Locks on accommodation for asylum seekers are only changed when residents are relocated or keys have been stolen or lost.

“In the case that asylum seekers’ appeals to stay in the UK are not legally successful their right to accommodation comes to an end. After giving them due notice they will be required to leave and the property will be allocated to another asylum seeker.”

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