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Thursday, 23 August 2018

Jeremy Corbyn calls for end to privatisation of asylum and refugee accommodation

Written by Paul Ward

Jeremy Corbyn has called for an end to the privatisation of asylum and refugee accommodation as he met asylum seekers in Glasgow.

The Labour leader met with a family fleeing religious persecution in Pakistan, a teenage girl fom Mauritius and a human trafficking victim from Vietnam to hear about their experiences of the system.

Somer Umeed Bakhsh, 15, and his brother Areeb, 13, told Mr Corbyn how Glasgow is their home having fled Pakistan with their parents Maqsood and Parveen in 2012 when their father was subjected to death threats due to his Christian faith.

The UK Government has repeatedly rejected the family's plea for asylum, largely because officials do not believe they would be at risk in Pakistan where blasphemy carries the death penalty.

More than 80,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Home Office not to deport the family and Mr Bakhsh said he has had mental health issues caused by the ongoing uncertainty over their future.

Mr Corbyn was also told how locks have been changed on some refugee properties to evict people from homes.

Private provider Serco announced a rolling lock change eviction process for those not given refugee status in Glasgow last month.

The company, contracted by the Home Office, says it is paying accommodation for a number of asylum seekers in the city who have been denied the right to remain in the UK.

It has announced a pause on the plans in the face of legal challenges against the evictions at the Court of Session and Glasgow Sheriff Court.

Mr Corbyn said: "Asylum-seeking families are stressed because they don't know what their future holds or if they'll get a favourable decision from the Home Office.

"I also heard of the horrors of how Serco having been changing the locks on people's doors as they go out in order to evict them.

"That is inhumane and completely wrong, and I make the plea now to Serco, change your attitude and policy as of now on this matter.

"With our shadow home secretary I will be making that demand to the Home Office because this is a Home Office-driven policy but they have outsourced it to Serco.

"I think outsourcing is wrong and unnecessary, and better-run by the public sector. These families need some certainty in their lives and they don't have any at the moment."

The Scottish Government have called for the devolution of migration powers but Mr Corbyn said it could cause "many complications".

"It's obviously an area for discussion and debate," the Labour leader said.

"I think there are many complications if you have different immigration policies in different parts of the country and I think we have to think this thing through.

"The priority at the moment is surely the human needs of asylum seekers who have been placed in Glasgow, placed in Hull or where ever around the UK and are going through similar stresses."

Serco has said it welcomes the legal challenges to the evictions in order to clarify the law.

The company maintains that it is providing free accommodation and being left to "pick up the bills" for asylum seekers who overstay despite having received a negative decision and their Home Office funding being stopped.

A Home Office spokesman 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.

"Even if an asylum claim is 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.

"UK Visas and Immigration are working closely with partners in Glasgow including Cosla, Glasgow City Council and NGOs to ensure that the cases of failed asylum seekers are managed appropriately."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) David Cheskin / PA WIre.