THE privatisation of the asylum housing contract was a huge mistake. It was predicted and it was preventable, but capitalism and cost-saving were prioritised over humanity once again and the consequences needed to be witnessed before there was any hope of changing the decision.

We find ourselves in a city that is all too aware of the after-effects of poor housing management, non-existent vulnerability assessments and complicated systems that seem to be centred around shifting responsibility above anything else. It should never be the case that housing for people seeking safety is in private hands being run for profit.

Glasgow has a long history of welcome and acceptance. People have been arriving in this city for more than 20 years, and whilst many things have changed during that time, concerns around housing have remained a constant issue throughout.

Originally, the asylum housing contract was managed by the council, and whilst it wasn’t without fault, it was certainly led with far more compassion and realistic spending than any of the private organisations that have followed. Orchard and Shipman proposed that they could run the contract for far less than the council, and thus they were handed management of the contract.

The complaints about them included mistreatment and being housed in sub-standard conditions and they lost the contract once these allegations were made.

Following Orchard and Shipman came Serco. Another private organisation who enjoyed boasting about how much money they were losing on the asylum housing contract. The fact that they felt the need to shout about how much money they have “lost” speaks volumes about their motivations when bidding for the contract in the first place. Whilst they tried hard to form connections with community organisations and the third sector, Serco lost all credibility when they began the lock change evictions. And even more so when they tried to defend these actions and they were criticised over their management of the contract.

It has always been clear that whilst the private organisations bidding for these contracts should have known better than to try to profit from vulnerable individuals and government contracts, ultimately, they are not to blame. The UK Home Office contract itself is where the real issue lies. It is this that makes evictions commonplace, it was the Home Office that privatised it and went for the cheaper delivery option and it is the contract that shifts further and further away from the people that it is supposed to be supporting with every provider and process change.

When Mears took over the contract in September 2019, I genuinely had hope. There was talk of reform, and the occasional success in preventing evictions had everyone looking for brighter days ahead. But since then two people have lost their lives. The cost saving continues along with the profiteering. The move of more than 300 people into hotels during coronavirus saved Mears more than £11,000 a week in asylum support. The conditions were not those of the hotel rooms known to you or me. They are stripped-back prison cells where individuals are cut off from the little bit of community that they may have built, or are imprisoned on arrival so that they cannot build any connections at all.

This should never be about making money. This is about people’s safety and security in a country that they have the right to come to and seek safety. There need be no further justification than that – a person’s profession or schooling or connections do not make them more worthy of a space within our country. Humanity gives them their place here, not a skills assessment. But we must stop taking this for granted and fight for change in the management of the systems that were originally put in place to give people their safety but that have now been played with by the profiteers so much that they are unrecognisable as human rights and far more comparable to corporate key performance indicators.

This is the reality of the housing contract under privatisation – and we can all do things to change that. Start here: