An email from the UK Border Agency claims that the Glasgow Asylum Seeker Accommodation Contract was cancelled only after Glasgow City Council invited the Agency to do so.
The email, dated 15 November, is from a Home Office official and claims that the UK Agency offered the Labour run Council an increase on their existing contract but that it was refused. Contractual arrangements meant that the refusal left the Agency with no option but to terminate the existing contract.
In the email the official writes: “Despite UK Border Agency offering an increase on what are, already, the highest accommodation charges in the UK outside London we were unable to reach an agreement. Glasgow City Council invited UK Border Agency to terminate the contract and contractually we were left with no other option but to do so.”
The termination of the accommodation contract means that the Glasgow Council are no longer in a position to offer accommodation support to asylum seekers, many of whom may be forced to seek alternative accommodation around Scotland.
Asylum seekers have been warned in a letter that they face being forced out of their current homes with, if they are lucky, 3 – 5 days notice. Many will be forced to move within weeks and will be allowed only two pieces of luggage each, with furnishings being transported on their behalf.
The contract cancellation resulted in a protest outside Glasgow city chambers on Monday which was attended by the SNP council group as well as SNP MSPs. Speaking at the protest was SNP group leader James Dornan.
On learning of the claims over the contracts cancellation Mr Dornan said:
“The ongoing concern over the future accommodation of our asylum seekers is becoming more and more serious by the day. The SNP Group in Glasgow remains committed to the united campaign to reverse the decision of the UKBA to terminate the accommodation contract and save the 42 jobs at Blindcraft that are at risk from this decision, we are extremely concerned by this latest claim by the UKBA.
“I have heard nothing from the Council that suggests they wished to terminate the contract, which has only added pressure to those already in an extremely pressurised existence and I am sure the council will repudiate this comment immediately. However, no matter who terminated the contract, the safety and security of the vulnerable entrusted to our city must remain our top priority and I urge Glasgow City Council and the UKBA to get back round the table forthwith to bring to a satisfactory and speedy conclusion this whole unfortunate situation”.
The City Council’s political groups – excepting the conservatives – signed a joint letter calling on the UK Government to reverse the decision to terminate the accommodation contract. A copy of the letter is available from the Glasgow City Council media unit.
We share the City Council’s wish that these changes are handled sensitively taking full account of individual circumstances and will continue to work closely with them to ensure the transition is handled as smoothly as possible and disruption is kept to a minimum. Letters have been sent to all asylum seekers currently housed by Glasgow City Council, explaining what could happen if they are required to move accommodation and further communication is planned to keep asylum seekers advised of future developments. We are very hopeful that the majority of the asylum seekers affected by this change of contract will remain in their current accommodation. If a move to new accommodation is required we will aim to give at least 14 days notice, where possible, and the costs of the move will fall to the new accommodation provider and not to the asylum seekers themselves. The UK Border Agency and Glasgow City Council held discussions over a period of months to review the asylum housing contract. Despite UK Border Agency offering an increase on what are, already, the highest accommodation charges in the UK outside London we were unable to reach an agreement. Glasgow City Council invited UK Border Agency to terminate the contract and contractually we were left with no other option but to do so.
I remain hopeful that the vast majority of service users will not have to move at all but that will depend to a large extent on how discussions go with Glasgow City Council.