BY Peter Diamond | August 3 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

3-REFUGEES

Church calls for eviction of 300 refugees to be halted

Bishops and homelessness charity condemn planned evictions of refugees

The Catholic Church has said UK Government policies ‘lack humanity’ after a Home Office contractor took the decision to evict 300 asylum seekers onto the streets of Glasgow.

The decision has been condemned by a homelessness charity in the city run by the Legion of Mary—who said they are ‘frightened to death’ at the thought of struggling to help so many people—and the Archbishop of Glasgow, who has now called on the evictions to be halted.

Serco, a private firm which houses thousands of asylum seekers in Glasgow, says it will start evicting more than 300 people who have been told by the Home Office that they will not be granted refugee status, withdrawing funding and support.

Hundreds rallied in Glasgow to protest the decision, including representatives of Justice and Peace Scotland, which advises the Scottish Bishops’ Conference in matters relating to social justice.

Bishop Willam Nolan of Galloway Diocese, the president of Justice and Peace Scotland, said: “Pope Francis urges us to see in the refugee and asylum seeker a fellow human being in need and to respond with compassion.

“The decision to evict 300 asylum seekers and render them homeless is no way to treat someone in need.

“These evictions are yet another example of official policies and procedures that lack humanity.”

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, said: “I hate to think of a hostile environment being deliberately created to make life harder for people coming to this country. I ask the authorities to re-think their decision to evict these poor people.”

Justice and Peace Scotland has long campaigned for the rights of asylum seekers, witnessing at Dungavel detention centre, where asylum seekers can be held indefinitely.

Frances Gallagher, campaign and communications officer for Justice and Peace Scotland, said asylum seekers should be treated with compassion and dignity.

“Catholic social teaching tells us we have to take the option for the poor, therefore we need to support and in this case we think probably financial help is best,” she said. “Refugee Survival Trust is a great organisation, which offers much needed practical support but they are running out of money. If people want to know more they should contact Justice and Peace office.”

Dorothy McLean, chair of the Justice and Peace Glasgow, said: “Pope Francis constantly reminds us of our duty as Christians to welcome the stranger. Glasgow Justice and Peace Commission regret that, as a result of the recent decision by Serco, 300 people in Glasgow will be made homeless.”

Frightened

The Wayside Club is a Catholic homeless charity operated by the Legion of Mary in Glasgow city centre, providing people with free food, drink, showers and entertainment.

Jim White, secretary of Wayside Club, said: “We are frightened to death with the thought of 300 people being dumped onto the streets of Glasgow as they will be coming to places like ours.

“Who was consulted on this decision as it certainly appears to be a last-minute decision? The government is asking for trouble.

“One week’s notice is a load of nonsense which will result in charities like ourselves being much busier. Homeless charities can only provide the basics and very few charities across Glasgow can provide accommodation so it’s extremely concerning.

“Our aim is always to feed and nourish the poor of Glasgow and provide them with a place of safety but we can only do so much and decisions like this are disastrous.”

Catholic MPs

Scottish Catholic MPs have said Glasgow is ‘united in shock’ at the decision to evict the refugees, who have fled conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Scottish Labour MP Paul Sweeney quoted slogans used by the famous Glasgow housing campaigner Mary Barbour, who organised tenants to resist evictions in 1915, as he condemned the decision.

The MP for Springburn said: “My office is working to find out if any of my constituents will be affected, and we would be prepared to occupy and stop these evictions. It reminds me of that old Mary Barbour slogan, ‘God help the sheriff officer who enters here.’

“We need to take this to the next level and challenge the government’s hostile environment.”

Glasgow SNP MP Carol Monaghan said: “Glasgow is united in our shock and deep concern at the imminent mass eviction of asylum seekers in our city.

“Serco have been entrusted with a duty of care and responsibility towards these vulnerable families and individuals—I expect that to be fulfilled. To provide seven days’ notice of eviction is completely unacceptable and places them in a dangerous situation.”

Jenni Halliday, contract director of Serco’s asylum seeker housing operation Compass, said: “While we are sympathetic to their plight, we believe we have been more than supportive of these individuals by providing them with an additional period of housing in which to make alternative arrangements but we cannot continue to provide free housing indefinitely.

“As they no longer have any right to continue to live in the property we provide, we have therefore started legal proceedings to repossess our properties.”

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are provided with free, fully furnished accommodation while applications are considered. We also cover utility costs and provide a cash allowance to cover other essential living needs.

“While an asylum claim is outstanding, we would not be seeking removal. Even if an asylum claim has failed, we will provide accommodation for those who would otherwise be destitute and who are temporarily unable to leave the UK because of a practical or legal obstacle.

“However it is right that we prepare for someone’s removal if they do not have a lawful basis to stay in the UK and they are not pursuing an appeal.”

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