Plans to use public buildings like sports centres to house homeless people in Glasgow are being looked at to cope with an impending crisis that could see “unprecedented levels of destitution”.

The UK Home Office is going ahead with plans to speed up decisions on asylum claims, which could see thousands in Glasgow processed by the end of the year.

It will mean people with a positive decision are allowed to stay in the UK, but then moved out of the Home Office-funded accommodation provided through its housing provider Mears.

Most of them end up making a homeless application to the council and in Glasgow, this is anticipated to be almost 1400 before the end of December.

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Speaking to the Glasgow Times, Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council, said public premises, like a Louisa Jordan Hospital, when the SEC was turned into a hospital on standby for Covid patients in 2020, are being looked at to provide emergency shelter.

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She said: “As a last resort backup plan we may have to go down the route of using ad hoc accommodation to provide a roof, heating, washing and catering for people.

“It is an appalling situation.”

She added: “The Home Office is embarking on a course of action which will be devastating for refugees and for cities across the UK.

“For Glasgow, a sudden cost of around £50m is simply unmanageable and the suffering caused to thousands of people who will suddenly be pushed into destitution is simply unimaginable.

Susanne Millar, chief officer of the Health and Social Care Partnership, said they were looking at the city’s property portfolio.

She said they had looked at opening up disused care homes where facilities exist for washing and cooking.

Also, she said empty retail units were looked at but said that was unlikely as there is no washing and cooking facilities.

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She added, however: “We will look at in extremis options, particularly over winter.”

Whereas, in other situations where emergency shelter-like accommodation is used it is only for a day or two, to respond to incidents like fire or flooding, officials have warned this situation is open-ended.

The council has no answer as to where they would be moved on to.

Allan Casey, homeless services convenor, said: “There is no answer to where they go after that.”

Aitken added: “We don’t have through routes.”

Senior council officials have warned there is a risk of social unrest, and financial consequences reaching tens of millions of pounds for the city and a huge knock-on effect on other social services.

The council expects around 2500 decisions to be made by the end of this year alone.

When a person receives a positive decision, they are given 28 days to leave the asylum seeker accommodation provided by Mears.

At that point, many end up making a homeless application, in Glasgow that has been 77%.

The council is warning that on current trends an extra 1,386 homelessness applications would be made by the end of December 2023.

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The cost to the council to respond to a crisis on this scale has been put at more than £50m.

In a report to councillors, Annemarie O’Donnell, the council’s chief executive and Susanne Millar, chief officer of the HSCP, said: “As a result of the Home Office decision, the number of people likely requiring homelessness assistance will increase and the HSCP’s Homelessness Service will find it exceedingly challenging to meet the additional demand.”

The accelerated process applies to people from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, who are more likely to get a positive decision.

The council called an emergency meeting of political group leaders, who agreed urgent action was needed.

And the blame was firmly placed on the UK Government and Home Office.

Aitken said: “The numbers are horrific. This is avoidable.”

George Redmond, Labour group leader, said: “This is a failure of the UK Government. They have abandoned asylum seekers. They have abandoned Glasgow.”

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He said for more than 20 years Glasgow had stood up and looked after asylum seekers and refugees when others looked away.

Redmond said: “This is financially undeliverable. We already have a shortage (of accommodation). “This is off the scale.”

Martha Wardrop, Green councillor, said: “The Home Office approach is not going to work here.

“We are looking at a humanitarian crisis on our streets. This is unrealistic we don’t have the staff to deal with it.”

Aitken and Casey had written to the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, but they said they did not get a direct response.

Aitken said it was “a complete block, a dismissal from the Home Secretary”.

They have now demanded an urgent meeting with Scottish Secretary Alister Jack to make the case for Glasgow and Scotland.

The pressure on homelessness services will be so great it will have a knock-on effect on existing services.

Casey said the emergency response would be for everyone “for asylum seekers and the indigenous population”.

He added: “The response will be for everyone across the city.”

The council leadership said it was a political decision by the UK Government and suggested it was designed to cause harm for political gain.

Casey said: “It is the ‘stop the boats’ narrative, trying to appease the right wing in England.”

Aitken added: “It is a deliberate attempt to make it look like asylum is causing chaos.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The pressure on the asylum system has continued to grow, which is why we have taken immediate action to speed up processing times and cut costs for taxpayers.

“To minimise the risk of homelessness, we encourage individuals to make their onward plans as soon as possible after receiving their decision, whether that is leaving the UK following a refusal, or taking steps to integrate in the UK following a grant.

“We offer ample support once claims have been granted through Migrant Help, access to the labour market and advice on applying for Universal Credit.”