More than 70 per cent of inspections on properties housing asylum seekers in Glasgow found conditions to be non-compliant with basic Home Office standards, new figures reveal.

Statistics uncovered as a result of a freedom of information request show just 28 per cent of accommodation assessed passed last year.

Between December 1 2017 and November 20 2018 there were a total of 426 inspections carried out by the Home Office on asylum seeker accommodation, with just 118 found to be compliant.

This accommodation is provided as part of the Home Office current contract with Serco, who last year housed almost 4,000 people across the city.

In total, 308 of these examinations uncovered defects in properties, with more than 20 per cent of these requiring action within 24 hours.

However, all repairs and replacements were carried out within the Home Office’s defined timelines.

Late last year, the Home Office released a report on inspections such as these and the department’s management of asylum seeker accommodation.

This also showed that a majority of properties were non-compliant with standards across the UK, with the Home Office failing to communicate the needs of pregnant women and torture survivors to contract holders and providing “inappropriate housing”.

Politicians and other groups in Glasgow have now condemned Serco for the conditions facing asylum seekers across the city.

Last week the provider were stripped of their contract, with the Home Office handing it to Mears Harvey Management from September.

Sheila Arthur, manager of the Asylum Seeker Housing Project, said: “We have dealt with a shocking amount of cases so this does not surprise us.

“We have had ongoing issues trying to get providers to deals with complaints on time.

“We have live cases ongoing of service users with toddlers who are without hot water. Others have waited months for washing machines for for beds to be supplied.

“It is consistently chaotic. They are failing to provide appropriate service and there is case after case of evidence to that end.

“Looking at the service, if this was a social housing provider they would have been jumped on by regulators from a great height and ‘special measures’ put in place.

“It would appear that Serco are Teflon-coated and must now be held to account. We would respectfully request feedback from the Home Office to make sure users are not put into properties which will negatively affect their health.

“Clearly this demonstrates Serco are not being held to account. Why are the Home Office turning a blind eye to these consistent failures, almost seven year after the contract was handed to them?

“We welcome Serco recently losing the contract but there are still nine months to go. We would be concerned that Serco take a cut and run approach to doing what is required in terms of repairs and funding. There is a potential for staff to become more aggressive and we have seen this previously with the proposed lock changes.”

This feeling was echoed by Councillor Kim Long, who last month led calls from Glasgow City Council to the Scottish Government to fund emergency housing for destitute asylum seekers and migrants in the city.

The Green representative said: “The fact that 72 per of Home Office landlord Serco properties failed to meet basic housing standards is appalling, but unsurprising given the conversations I’ve had with people seeking asylum and forced to live in sub-standard homes including problems with rats, mould, damp and squalor.

“The problems are often hidden, because the UK asylum process puts people into such a state of fear and confusion that people are often scared to report repairs in case it harms their legal case.

“Decent housing is a human right, and is even more important given asylum seekers are survivors of war, torture and abuse and are often living with mental and physical health issues as a result.

“It’s imperative that Serco get their houses in order before their contract is up, and I hope the new holders Mears Group know that many of us will be watching very closely their plans for housing vulnerable people.”

Representatives for Mears confirmed that work to investigate the state of properties across the city would start now, ahead of taking over the contract in September, in order to identify unfit properties and landlords.

A spokesman for Mears Harvey Management added: “The contract we have bid for is now for asylum seeker housing and support, meaning it has grown from the previous deal.

“We see this as an acceptance of a lack of support for service users, including in keeping these homes fit for habitation.

“This is a significant change and one of the reasons we decided to bid in the first instance.

“With our tenants we go in and do inspections around four times a year, but these will almost certainly need more frequent visits initially.

“Our approach to property management means we have the framework to make sure people are OK throughout the year, not just when issues come to a head.”

The shocking inspection results have also been criticised by Glasgow City Council, who also expressed their belief that local authorities should be able to bid for contracts providing such accommodation.

However, current Home Office rules prohibit this.

Jennifer Layden, Glasgow’s City convener for equalities and human rights, added: “We have long heard about the often appalling and inadequate conditions asylum seekers are housed in and are unfortunately not surprised that little more than a quarter of inspected asylum properties Serco are housing people in were passed fit.

“This further illustrates exactly why the city council should be the provider of a holistic, fully-funded service. The constraints put on us by the Home Office mean we have no right to veto

poor or sub-standard accommodation.

“Later this month we will meet with the incoming asylum contract provider Mears and the quality and maintenance of accommodation will be one of a number of significant issues discussed.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We demand high standards from our contractors and their accommodation and remain committed to improving the service we provide to destitute asylum seekers.

“Defects will occur in properties and where we or the provider find these, or a service ser reports them, then we have tight timescales in which those issues should be rectified.

All of our properties are inspected by the providers on a monthly basis, in addition to regular inspections carried out by Home Office officials, to ensure that any issues are quickly identified and that standards are maintained.”

Jenni Halliday, Serco’s contract director for COMPASS, added: “The Serco team in Glasgow treats the asylum seekers in our care with dignity and respect and provide accommodation that not only meets the required standards, but is some of the most heavily inspected in the country.

“It is this inspection regime, by our own teams and the Home Office, that ensure the properties meet the required standards and that any defects are rectified.

“As the Home Office has made clear, all the defects identified in these inspections were rectified by Serco within the contractual timescales.”