Disabled refugee family facing eviction over Christmas

A refugee family with three young children and a disabled mother are due to be evicted from Glasgow asylum accommodation in less than four weeks, and fear they will have nowhere suitable to go after a two-year delay by the council in finding them an accessible home. 

The family, who fled political persecution in a south Asian country more than a decade ago, claim they have been discriminated against due to the mother’s disability.  They were granted refugee status in February 2022 and were then eligible for housing from the council. But a property adapted for the mother, who has a permanent disability and uses a wheelchair, could not be found.

In September Home Office accommodation provider, Mears, applied for a legally binding eviction order. This means the family are due to vacate the property on 27 December but are still waiting for a suitable property. The family claims the court process has left them feeling “like criminals”. 

Glasgow City Council said the family will not be moved until something “suitable” is found. However unless the court order is extended by a Sheriff, refugee advocates claim that the decision to go ahead with the eviction will not be up to the council. Campaigners are concerned that any emergency accommodation offered will not be accessible for the disabled mother.

Mears told The Ferret it has “followed the contractual process at all times”. All refugees are given 28 days to leave their asylum accommodation when the Home Office makes a positive decision on their case. 

Refugees under pressure

The mother – who we are calling Saleha to protect her identity – said she was so stressed about the situation she had now been prescribed a high dose of antidepressants and her health is suffering.

She and her husband, who we are calling Ayman, said they understood the pressure the council was under due to the current housing emergency, declared by the council on 30 November. But they claimed they had been let down by a system that has failed to find them somewhere temporary to live despite a 20-month wait.

Last week the Ferret revealed that 41 people slept rough in the city on the night of 27 November in sub zero temperatures, the evening before the housing emergency was called. They included 16 refugees who had been evicted from Mears accommodation after having been granted leave to remain but given nowhere to go.

Those left homeless include those whose locks – or hotel key cards – have been changed.

Saleha told The Ferret: “We were so happy when we were finally granted refugee status. We had waited for ten years, and the process was so hard on us.

“As soon as we had our papers we applied for housing and Glasgow City Council sent a text confirming they had the application. I explained my needs and the case worker said she would contact me as soon as something came up. Then we didn’t hear from her for almost a year.”

The family has been offered several flats but none have been accessible for Salena’s wheelchair. In late March, Mears attempted to evict the couple regardless.

The couple claim they were initially given one day’s notice, which was increased to four days after the intervention of the Asylum Seeker Housing (ASH) project run by Glasgow charity Community Infosource. The Ferret has seen case notes and a letter backing these claims. 

We were also shown messages sent to ASH case workers from Saleha claiming she was so scared of the housing officer she had been physically sick. Her children had to be taken out of school because they were so distressed.

It is now December, we still have nowhere to go. Things are very hard. My health is really suffering.

Salenha, refugee mother

Due to the intervention of ASH and a local councillor the family was not evicted. But in September Mears sent the family a further eviction notice and then referred the case to the Sheriff Court, requesting a legal eviction order, which was approved. 

Salenha said: “It is now December, we still have nowhere to go. Things are very hard. My health is really suffering. I feel like I’ve been discriminated against because of my disability. The situation makes me feel like a criminal – that it is due to me my family is in this situation.”

Her husband and carer, Ayman, added: “Our things have been half packed for months. We are ready to go but we have nowhere else to live. We begin to think: “Is this our fault?” But it is not. Why are we being dragged through the courts like this by Mears? The behaviour of Glasgow City Council also feels irresponsible.”

Loa Pour Mirza, ASH project coordinator, said the situation was “unacceptable”. “The uncertainty on whether the family are going to have a roof over their heads in the height of winter is causing them immeasurable stress,” she added.

The charity said that it hoped the recent declaration of a housing emergency would prevent both this family, and others being supported by the charity, from being made homeless or unsuitably housed.

“There is an increase in people with positive asylum claims coming to us with notices to quit and court summons for evictions from Mears property,” Pour Mirza said. “We can only predict a growth in rates of destitution and homelessness if the housing emergency is not addressed imminently.”

Contractual process followed

Migrants were being “scapegoated” for a longstanding underinvestment in social housing, she claimed.

Disabled advocates told The Ferret that accessible housing was a “major challenge” across Glasgow with many living in “intolerable situations”.

Paul Sweeney, Scottish Labour MSP for Glasgow and chair of the Scottish Parliament’s cross party group on migration, said the “tragic case” was far from unique. “It is not acceptable that people are being driven to despair waiting for adequate housing in Glasgow,” he added. “If we don’t get a grip of the housing supply crisis, homelessness and destitution will only worsen.”

A spokesperson from Mears said it has “followed the contractual process at all times, including giving proper notice to our service users and notifying the local authority”.

“As the service users have not voluntarily moved on to other accommodation, we have now referred the case to the Sheriff Court,” they added.

“If a service user does not move on from the property voluntarily in the agreed timelines, we seek to take lawful possession of the property so that it can be made ready to accommodate others seeking asylum.”

A spokesperson from Glasgow City Council added: “We are working with a range of professionals to secure suitable accommodation in order that the family can move on from their current asylum accommodation.

“We have been working with Mears to ensure families like this one are able to remain in their accommodation until suitable accommodation is identified. The family will not be moved from their current address until suitable accommodation is secured. And that is ongoing.”

The Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases.

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