WOMEN in an accommodation centre for female asylum seekers have told how the building is "infested with rats".

One woman said she would rather "sleep on the streets" than endure the problems within the Southside residence. 

Despite repeatedly reporting the issue, they say provider Mears has failed to act swiftly to respond to calls for pest control to deal with the rodents.

Mears, however, said the problems are being caused by mice, not rats, and denied that problems are long-standing.

One woman, who asked not to be named, said the issues first occurred over a month ago and she immediately tried to report them to Mears.

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But the online chat service kept cutting off and the Mears officers within the building, who were told about the problems, allegedly did not taken any action.

The women also contacted Migrant Help, a third sector organisation the Home Office uses as an intermediary between itself and refugees or people seeking asylum. 

Migrant Help said its computer system would only allow it to report pest control issues as an incident to be dealt with within 21 days, rather than an urgent problem.

Residents have described being woken at night by "rats" scrabbling about in their rooms.

They have found rodent faeces on kitchen worktops, cookers and in dresser drawers among their belongings.

One woman said pest controllers did attend at her room and blocked up an entry point.

But the "rats" returned shortly after and chewed through a skirting board back into the room.

Mears staff are said to have told the woman untidy rooms were attracting "rats" - but when the Glasgow Times visited, the rooms were being kept scrupulously clean.

One resident said that women had been sleeping in the communal television room and in corridors as they are afraid to stay in their rooms.

She said: "Many women in here have had problems with rats but they are afraid to speak up because they believe it may affect their asylum claim.

"So they are just silently putting up with things."

Another woman said: "When I first arrived in the UK I was in London and I slept on the streets for two nights.

"I would rather sleep on the streets again than live with these rat problems.

"A lot of the ladies here don't know how to speak to one another because of the language barrier and you don't know what people have been through.

"But we have come together to share our stories and realise so many of us are having the same experiences with the rats. 

"Some of the ladies here do not know how to use their voices to speak up - but they are learning to speak up now." 

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Each of the 38 rooms in the building has a single bed, fridge and cooker and an en suite bathroom.

The building, on Pollokshaws Road, used to be the James Shields Project for young people experiencing homelessness but was taken over by Mears from the youth charity Quarriers.

There is a 10pm curfew for guests but the women say that men access the building after hours, making them feel unsafe.

The Glasgow Times was also told how the smoke alarm has been set off but has sounded for hours as there have been no staff in the building to switch it off.

In response, Mears said: “We have asked service users to take practical steps to avoid setting the alarms off.

“We will remind service users that out of respect to others, visitors should not be at the accommodation after 10pm.” 

Mears pointed to the pile-up of rubbish caused by the recent bin strikes as being the source of the issue.

But the women are clear that the rodent droppings have been a problem for at least the past month.

A Mears spokesperson said: “We are working with a specialist pest management contractor in response to reports of mice at this property, which we understand may be linked to uncollected rubbish in the area.   

"Action has been taken including placing bait down and blocking any access points identified.   

"We will monitor the situation and maintain pest management on an ongoing basis."

The spokesperson added that "service users [have been asked] to take practical steps to avoid setting" fire alarms off.

A Home Office spokesperson said the Government is dealing with an "unprecedented increase" in asylum cases, adding, "despite this we continue to ensure that the accommodation provided is safe, secure and leaves no one destitute.

She said: “We expect high standards from all of our providers. 

"We have raised this matter with our accommodation provider - which is part of infestation issues in the wider area around the unit - and will ensure appropriate action is taken."

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