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Human Rights Commission to intervene in Serco lock-change case

Image credit: Ian Nicholson/PA Archive

Human Rights Commission to intervene in Serco lock-change case

The Scottish Human Rights Commission is to intervene in a legal challenge over the mass eviction of asylum seekers from accommodation in Glasgow.

The Commission made the announcement citing “serious human rights implications” for those who are having their locks changed by the housing provider Serco.

The company began implementing its lock-changing policy last week despite an ongoing legal challenge over its lawfulness.

Serco, whose contract with the Home Office expires at the end of August, said it was implementing this policy because it had become too expensive to continue to house asylum seekers who have had their claims rejected by the Home Office.

The Human Rights Commission’s intervention will be made during the appeal of the case known as Ali v Serco and the Home Secretary.

The case was first heard in the Court of Sessions earlier this year, where lawyers representing asylum seekers argued that evictions without court orders should be unlawful.

While the case was dismissed in April, however, and an appeals process is currently underway.

This will be the first time the Commission uses its powers to intervene in a civil case.

Lawyers and campaigners have urged Serco to halt the evictions until the case had been settled.

Judith Robertson, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Committee, said: “This case raises serious human rights implications for people who are already in a deeply vulnerable position.

“Nobody should be left deliberately destitute and homeless by the actions of the state, or by organisations delivering services on the state’s behalf.

“Everyone has a right to a private and family life, to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment and, in terms of international law, a right to adequate housing.

“The UK government has corresponding legal obligations to protect these rights, as does Serco when it comes to providing housing services on its behalf.

“Locking people out of their homes, leaving them destitute and vulnerable on Scotland’s streets, is, in the Commission’s view, a clear violation of these human rights responsibilities.

“There is a significant public interest in ensuring that governments and their contractors are held to account when they disregard their human rights obligations.

“Strengthening accountability for human rights breaches is a key priority for the Commission and we are therefore pleased to have been granted leave to intervene in this case.”

The case is now expected to be heard in the Court of Sessions on 28 August 2019.

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