A CONTRACTOR providing housing for asylum seekers in Glasgow has refused to rule out the use of lock-change evictions when they take charge of the service.

The Mears Group, who will replace Serco as the Home Office contractor in September, could not confirm the practice would not be used by their staff to remove asylum seekers from their properties across the city.

In August, Serco were heavily criticised for their decision to issue lock change notices to asylum seekers living in Glasgow.

A legal bid to prevent those who have exhausted appeal rights and been found to have no right to remain in the UK being evicted without a court order was dismissed in April.

Despite this, Serco have not continued on with their plans to issue evictions notices to those living under the care of both them and the Home Office.

However, fresh concerns have now been raised after it emerged that the Mears Group will be "contractually obliged" to carry out evictions on behalf of the Home Office come September.

READ MORE: Legal challenge to Serco's asylum seeker lock-change evictions dismissed

Around 300 people across the city could be affected by the Home Office policy, which could leave vulnerable men and women destitute and without shelter.

Reported to be under particular threat are women, with no emergency accommodation available to them.

A spokesperson for the Asylum Seeker Housing (ASH) Project said: "We are disappointed the new provider seems to be suggesting they will just continue to follow Serco’s discredited 'lock change' eviction procedures.

"We were hoping Mears would accept this practice is abhorrent and has no place in a civilized society but unfortunately it appears once again profit triumphs over morality in the private sector."

When asked about whether the use of lock-change evictions would be used by Mears under Home Office instruction, Mears said they were "obliged to conform to the requirements set out in the asylum accommodation contracts".

READ MORE: Serco slated after 70 per cent of Glasgow's asylum seeker accommodation fails Home Office inspections

Mears are now being encouraged to engage with the council in ensuring those most at risk are supported throughout the asylum process.

Green Councillor Kim Long, who sits on the Asylum Seeker Strategic Forum, said: "Vulnerable new Glaswegians should not be living under the threat of eviction. How can you deal with complex legal matters if you are making survival decisions to get through each day?

"We need a one-stop shop where people can access legal support alongside emergency accommodation. The council has agreed to explore on this, but the continued eviction threat makes clear this work is urgently needed.”

Refugee charities have echoed calls for Mears to engage with the council, claiming they must conform to human rights standards, including in the "repossession of asylum accommodation”.

READ MORE: Campaigners raise concerns over future of asylum seekers following taskforce report

Sabir Zazai, CEO of the Scottish Refugee Council, said: "Mears Group have the opportunity to take a different and humane approach in partnership with the city council and its refugee sector to ensure no one is rendered homeless here via the Home office asylum process.

"We urge them to do that publicly by committing to be an integral part of a new city partnership based on zero tolerance of asylum destitution in Glasgow. That would be the best way to move on from the Home office and Serco evictions debacle of last summer.”

Members of the tenants' union Living Rent have also condemned Mears' contractual obligation to carry out evictions on behalf of the Home Office, saying contractors can "issue an eviction at the click of an email" with "no regard for people's lives".

READ MORE: Serco stripped of Home Officer asylum seeker housing contract for Glasgow

A spokesperson added: "We are outraged to hear that the future accommodation contractors and the Home Office are not attempting to find a solution to the crisis at hand."

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Office takes the wellbeing of asylum seekers and the local communities in which they live extremely seriously.

“We will continue to work closely with local authorities and partners to ensure that those who have no right to be in the UK leave their accommodation in a safe and secure way.

“We are working with Glasgow City Council to agree and implement a support advice referral process for those at risk of potential eviction.”

The Mears Group declined to comment further on the matter.

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