EVICTIONS against refugees and asylum seekers are being ramped up in Glasgow.

In 2019, the Mears Group plc was awarded three contracts to provide accommodation for asylum seekers in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north east of England.

Starting from October 2019 and running for 10 years, the Home Office contracts are worth £1 billion to Mears.

A noticeable increase in the volume of Mears Housing Management Limited eviction cases is now visible at the “heritable court” – eviction court – at Glasgow Sheriff Court each week.

The cause of the hike appears to be a policy decision by Mears and the Home Office to accelerate the removal of support for former asylum seekers. Eviction can occur in two scenarios.

First, an individual is successful in his or her asylum claim and secures UK refugee status. This means they are now entitled to homeless accommodation in the same way as any other UK citizen and asylum support is terminated.

Second, a person’s asylum claim is refused by the Home Office and becomes appeals rights exhausted in which case Home Office and Mears support comes to an end.

Expedited evictions during a cost-of-living crisis are no doubt part and parcel of the Home Office’s unethical hostile environment against asylum seekers – although it’s odd that such treatment is meted out to refugees who have leave to remain in the UK.

Glasgow South West MP, Chris Stephens, is deeply concerned with Mears’ accelerated removal process and believes it’s unnecessary and inhumane.

He said: “I’ve constituents who’ve laid down roots in our local communities with strong support networks. After a successful refugee status decision, they look forward to remaining in Govan, for example, but Mears want to evict them immediately. Uprooting people causes unnecessary distress to families with children at local schools.”

Lest we forget that until a High Court case brought on behalf of a client by Greater Manchester Law Centre last December, asylum seekers had to live on £40.85 per week. They aren’t allowed to work and £40.85 was insufficient for basic living needs.

The home secretary had ignored unequivocal advice from her civil servants when it came to setting the annual minimum living allowance and had disregarded the dramatic rise in the cost of living.

The court held that the home secretary had acted unlawfully in reviewing the minimum level of “section four and 95” payments and required a level of no less than £45 per week.

All of these issues have been on the local authority’s radar for some months now. Bizarrely, the response to increased homeless demand in Glasgow was a decision by the Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership (GCHSCP) in June to cut £5 million from this year’s homeless budget. Here’s what the GCHSCP said at paragraph 2.6 of its report on June 28: “Since the last report … the HSCP has seen an increase in the level of demand for B&B accommodation. The main drivers of this appears to be an increase in requests for assistance from people affected by homelessness.

“In addition, the decision of Mears and the Home Office to accelerate the numbers of people being moved out of accommodation following successful asylum claims has resulted in additional pressure of circa 600 households.”

The difficulty with the approach of Mears and the Home Office in Glasgow is the lack of any standard defence to such eviction actions. Since the Inner House decision in Ali (Iraq) v Serco Limited and others, it’s clear that Mears is regarded in Scots law as a private housing provider. Mears’ occupancy agreements aren’t tenancies and contractually it has a mandatory right to recover possession of its properties.

Standing the 2016 UK Supreme Court case of McDonald v McDonald and the 2018 decision in FJM v United Kingdom you can’t argue an “article eight” European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) defence in a private housing case.

Perhaps more troubling is the fact Mears is seeking immediate enforcement of eviction orders. It is asking the court to shorten notice periods or dispense with time periods altogether – this can remove between four to six weeks from the process and result in incredibly fast evictions.

There’s nothing to prevent refugees and unsuccessful asylum seekers defending and opposing expedited evictions using the 1998 Human Rights Act. That’s because the court as a public body exercising statutory powers must act in a way that’s compatible with ECHR rights.

One isn’t challenging the granting of an eviction order, rather the challenge is against the accelerated process.

It’s regrettable that we find ourselves in this invidious position, but I’m sure Glasgow community law centres and others will rise to the challenge to help prevent individuals and families being exposed to destitution and homelessness