Several NGOs and law centres have been involved in this legal action including Shelter Scotland, Legal Services Agency, Latta & co, Govan Law Centre, Scottish Refugee Council, JustRight Scotland and Positive Action in Housing. The Scottish Human Rights Commission also intervened in this case - their first Public Interest Intervention.
SERCO is a private housing provider, who was contracted by the Home Office to provide accommodation to people seeking asylum. In July 2018, they announced plans to evict 300 asylum seekers who live in Glasgow who have been told that they cannot stay in the UK.
There has been widespread condemnation of SERCO lock changes. Together with protests, campaigning and letter-writing by NGOs and individuals, there have been a number of court actions to challenge this action.
n Rashidi and Ali v. Serco Limited, Compass SNI Ltd, and the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the court found that the lock-change evictions by Serco are not incompatible with the Human Rights Act because asylum seekers have a right of appeal to the First Tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum) against a decision to terminate their accommodation.
However, this case is now on appeal with the hearing in August 2019, and the decision is still pending. The Scottish Human Rights Commission intervened in the appeal through written intervention.
Several organisations, including Shelter Scotland, Govan Law Centre and Latta & co, successfully took cases for interim interdicts to halt the lock-changes whilst the courts considered the legality of this action.
The core outcome of these cases - to stop these lock-change evictions - is not yet known whilst the outcome of the appeal is not yet known.
However, one significant outcome of these cases so far has been further clarity on the extent to which private contractors working on behalf of the Government have human rights obligations. Serco and the Home Office had argued that Serco was not subject to the Human Rights Act as its services were of a private nature in law. However, the court did not accept that argument. The court clarified that 'Serco has obligations under human rights laws and that the UK government cannot simply divest itself of its human rights obligations by outsourcing the provision of public services to private providers.'