On 4 August the Refugee Rights Campaign (RRC) organised a protest in front of the head office of company Serco in Victoria, London. Serco is a multimillion company that profits from contracting services including from the Home office, NHS and other public services.
This protest was organised to support refugees and asylum seekers in Glasgow who are facing eviction from their homes by Serco. The following slogans were used at the protest.
- Homes, jobs and services for all – refugees and working class people in Glasgow
- Stop treating refugees as criminals
- Serco out of all public services
- For the right to work for all asylum seekers
- No to Deportation, No to Detention
- Build council homes
- Serco out, Tories out! Last weekend, Serco, a private housing firm in Glasgow, announced that it would start evicting asylum seekers who had not been granted refugee status in the UK. As a result, 300 residents will be on the streets by this week. Because of their failed refugee status, Glasgow City Council is legally unable to help those residents, many of whom do not speak English, have no money or contacts, and nowhere to go.After successful protests, Serco’s eviction project has been put on hold. RRC thanks all the Glaswegian, Socialist Party, Tamil Solidarity, trade unionists and others who campaigned in this show of humanity. Serco gave no proper warning about the upcoming evictions to either its residents or refugee charities, which are already stretched beyond their limits. Currently, Serco provides housing for 5,000 asylum seekers in Glasgow, raising the question of what happens if the company decides these people also don’t meet their criteria for accommodation. Private companies should not have the power to leave vulnerable people homeless and councils should not be helpless to provide emergency support for people living in their city.
Where Glasgow’s government officials have failed, as usual, the city’s citizens are rising to the task of holding Serco accountable. Although the eviction is happening in Glasgow, this is not just one city’s problem. Similar evictions have been happening throughout the UK – Glasgow is simply speaking up about it. The UK’s Home Office and Tory government needs to be held accountable for giving private companies the power to make people homeless and throw lives into turmoil.
Many of those who face eviction are in the process of appealing their asylum cases, but that will become almost impossible without access to proper accommodation.
Under Tory austerity and racist laws, many asylum seekers without refugee status cannot access the services they need; for example, Rape Crisis cannot assist homeless and vulnerable women who haven’t been granted asylum. But there are insufficient services for everyone – a result of the cruel cuts to public spending under the Tories. We need to build on the success of this struggle to fight for services, homes and jobs for all.
In 2012, Theresa May, then Home Secretary, told The Telegraph that she was going to create a “really hostile reception” to illegal immigrants. Six years later, as Prime Minister, May has established a hostile environment for working class people of all backgrounds which the Windrush scandal reveals. The mass eviction in Glasgow is a direct, inhumane consequence of her anti-immigration ambitions. Instead of working with asylum seekers, refugees and charities, the Home Office and its private housing companies have instead chosen to make vulnerable people homeless.
Those threatened with eviction face destitution, a horrendous situation to be in. Seeking safety in the UK, these people have fled war-torn countries and trauma, only to be met with more hostility and more instability. We have a responsibility to aid the most vulnerable in this country. That means building a united struggle so no one is treated like this.