Following news about the Home Office / Serco attempts to evict around 300 people seeking asylum in Glasgow, a campaign has been started to try to organise a change of decision and with providing any emergency assistance.
At the meeting of the Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees co-ordination group in August 2019, we heard from Esther Muchena from the Scottish Refugee Council who helped us to develop the following suggestions for faith groups wanting to respond.
What can I do?
- For people affected by the threat of eviction, for those made homeless and those fearful about their future, that they may find safety and assurance.
- For people working to provide advice and assistance, for legal officers, campaigners, housing advisers and everyone working with refugees, that they continue to show energy and commitment.
- For those who have the power to help including the decision makers in the Home Office and at Serco, that they might have a change of heart.
- Give money to the Refugee Survival Trust, a Scottish Charity that provides support to destitute asylum seekers in Scotland.
- Glasgow city centre faith groups with halls/rooms that can offer them for use by people who are homeless and destitute. The actions of the Home Office and Serco risk a large increase in this vulnerable population and emergency accommodation is required to help provide shelter especially as the colder and wetter weather of autumn and winter is approaching.
- Time volunteering with campaign group No Evictions Glasgow and the Glasgow Night Shelter for Destitute Asylum Seekers.
- Let your MP and the Home Secretary know what you think – write to them today.
- Spread the word on social media and talk to your family, friends and members of your faith group.
The comments and statements from Scottish faith leaders below:
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.”
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.”
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.”
Read a full article in the Scottish Catholic Observer.
The Most Rev Mark Strange, Acting Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway and the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church commented:
As a Church, we believe that one of the most basic human rights is the right to safe and secure shelter (Matthew 25:31-41), to have a place to call home. A civilised society should seek to shelter everyone from the trauma of being evicted from their home.
Yet once again, asylum seekers are having the locks changed on their homes and are threatened with living on the streets. This is happening here, in Glasgow, a city that prides itself on its welcome.
We urge the UK Government to stop these evictions, to listen to the concerns of the Scottish Government. It would be good to think that we, too, are living by the message of the Gospel of Matthew; “when I was hungry, thirsty, naked…”
Glasgow Presbytery’s Community Responsibility Committee Convener, George Kelly, has written the following letter:
As you will be well aware, the Church of Scotland in Glasgow has a longstanding commitment to working with refugees and people seeking asylum. Obviously, many members in a number of our congregations are in these categories. It is this involvement, allied to a sense of responsibility for the wellbeing of our city, that has prompted us to contact you. We wish to protest in the strongest possible terms that when the status of some seeking asylum has been challenged by the Home Office, the practice of changing locks as a means of ensuring their eviction has currently been revived.
While agreeing that every effort should be made to ensure that those seeking asylum in this country are eligible, there can be no circumstances under which anyone should be rendered homeless. The Home Office and those acting as agents on their behalf must ensure that the human rights of those who come to this country seeking help should not be further violated by the policies adopted in dealing with them. We therefore urge that there is an immediate halt to intimidating, manipulative and coercive practices such as:
- Inappropriate phone calls and visits.
- Electricity restrictions leading to unacceptable disruption and hardship.
- Continued implementation of the programme of lock changing.
- The deliberate misinterpretation of circumstances to conclude that properties have been abandoned.
To persist with such an approach, despite being fully aware of the legal challenges being mounted against the recent Court decision, is completely unacceptable. This is particularly so when it continues in the full knowledge that 41 of 44 such cases have had their outcomes reversed on appeal. We applaud and fully support the involvement of the Scottish Human Rights Commission in ensuring that the right to a private and family life, as enshrined in article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, should be upheld.
In a city with an already appalling housing crisis there can be no excuse for exacerbating the problem by making even more people homeless and removing from them the possibility of continuing to seek a legal and sympathetic resolution to their problem.
In conclusion, we wish to underline that we fully support the many other individuals and organisations who are calling for an immediate halt to the callous indifference displayed to those who are affected by the continued implementation of this draconian policy.