Nicola Sturgeon backs talks on public sector bid for asylum accommodation 

First Minister suggests cross-party talks following repeated reports of abuse

THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT should consider a future bid to tackle abusive behaviour and poor housing of asylum seekers in the country, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Responding to concerns from Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie yesterday [Thursday 29 September] Sturgeon promised cross-party talks on whether a public sector bid for future housing contracts was possible.

Controversy over asylum housing was reignited in 2015 following reports of evictions, racism, and bullying directed at vulnerable people by housing contractors. 

“Our position and principle have always been that asylum seeker accommodation should be provided in the public sector.” Nicola Sturgeon

Harvie, pressing for further action on the issue, told parliament: “I encourage the Scottish Government to be proactive in putting together a public sector bid to take on the provision of the services. We know that the Scottish public sector and Scottish non-governmental organisations and charities can provide them to a higher standard of dignity than is being provided at present.”

Sturgeon gave her backing to Harvie, stating that the government “are deeply concerned about the standards of asylum seeker accommodation and about allegations of the mistreatment of asylum seekers”.

Sturgeon added: “Our position and principle have always been that asylum seeker accommodation should be provided in the public sector. I am certainly happy, together with Angela Constance, to consider Patrick Harvie’s suggestion of a public sector bid and to consider whether that would be feasible. I am happy to engage further with him on that.”

Evictions, bullying, racism: The horror faced by Scotland's asylum seekers revealed

Asylum seeker accommodation is currently managed by the UK Home Office, meaning it is reserved to Westminster governments. However, the Scottish Government could in future support a public sector bid for the contracts.

In 2015 CommonSpace reporter Liam O’hare compiled worrying accounts of asylum seekers in Scotland receiving mistreatment in connection to their accommodation provision.

This included examples of asylum seekers being physically forced out of their houses and are having locks changed while they were out.

One 65-year-old, Roxana from East Africa, had her asylum application turned down but was in the process of applying for a judicial review when the housing staff arrived where she was staying and started to clear out her stuff and told her to leave.

“I didn't know people could be so cruel. I can't believe that they treated a woman of my age like this…like rubbish. They took my dignity from as if I'm a criminal.”

Picture courtesy of Scottish Parliament TV

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