9 August 2019 marked the 50th interim interdict granted by Glasgow Sheriff Court against Serco to prevent lock-change evictions in Glasgow.

Serco, the current provider for the Secretary of State for the Home Office, provides temporary accommodation for asylum seekers. Certain protocols and procedures have been developed and implemented by Serco for ending the occupancy of the property where an asylum claim has been refused. Currently, Serco provides a 21 day notice period to the occupier advising that the agreement to occupy is terminated and the occupier requires to vacate the property, failing which Serco will change the locks. This protocol follows the legal provisions set out on the Asylum Support Regulations 2000 and has been agreed with Glasgow City Council.

The process was challenged in the Outer House of the Court of Session in April 2019 in the case of Ali against Serco Limited and others & Rashidi against Serco Limited and another. The argument for the pursuers was that the processes followed by Serco to evict the occupier of the property without a court order was unlawful. Lord Tyre held that it was not. The decision is subject to an appeal with a hearing set down for the end of August within the Inner House of the Court of Session.

In the meantime, Serco attempted to continue with its adopted processes and procedures. Lock change evictions were arranged to take place across Glasgow affecting more than 300 people. In response to this, Serco has faced opposition both in the sheriff court and criticism in the media from a number of quarters, including Shelter Scotland.

In early June 2019, Serco announced that 30 evictions would take place the following week. Organisations acting on behalf of the asylum seekers sprang into action. Govan Law Centre, Legal Services Agency and Shelter Scotland were successful in obtaining interim interdicts to prevent any eviction prior to the outcome of the appeal in the Inner House. At present more than 50 interim orders have been granted.

Not only is Serco facing opposition within Glasgow Sheriff Court, the Scottish Human Rights Commission have been granted leave to intervene in the legal challenge, in a move which is first of its kind in civil litigation in Scotland.. Organisations including Scottish Refugee Council, Living Rent, Govan Community Project, Just Right Scotland and W-ASH Project continue to put pressure on Serco to change its procedures.

A new bill to avoid lock change evictions has been placed before the UK Parliament in the form of Asylum Seekers (Accommodation Eviction Procedures) Bill 2019. The proposed legislation includes provisions that allow a challenge to be brought by asylum seekers to the proportionality of a possible eviction. The Bill has garnered cross party support from both SNP and Labour politicians in Scotland.

It is suggested that hundreds of asylum seekers have been affected by Serco's lock change eviction policy. Support agencies have cautioned that there is no place for the evicted refugees to go. Serco has been urged by a number of organisations, including the Chartered Institute of Housing to place a halt on lock change evictions, at least until the outcome of the appeal hearing in the Inner House. It remains to be seen whether Serco will do so. The political pressure against lock change evictions appears to be rising, as is the number of interim interdicts that have been obtained to preclude further evictions of this type until the question of their legality has been resolved.


Fiona McLeod

Legal Director