REFUGEE charities have raised concerns about the ongoing plight of more than 300 asylum seekers facing eviction from Serco accommodation, who are left living in uncertainty though the multinational lost its Scottish contract last week.

The Home Office contract to provide accommodation in Glasgow has been awarded to Mears Group, a UK-wide housing and social care provider. Serco meanwhile will take over a higher value contract in the Midlands. The new arrangements will come into force in September.

READ MORE: Graham O’Neill: Our solidarity is the best protection for those in need

However charities are concerned that Serco will remain responsible for evictions of refused asylum seekers in its properties, regardless of whether or not it wins pending legal action.

Provision by Serco has been widely criticised by housing campaigners, refugee charities and politicians over the last seven years.

Numerous asylum seekers housed by the firm complained of dirty, substandard, unsafe and unsuitable accommodation, and complaints prompted a Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry, which found evidence of unacceptable standards and treatment of asylum seekers.

Serco was also condemned for its decision last summer to roll-out plans to change the locks on the homes of asylum seekers it said it no longer had an obligation to house under the terms of its contract.

The plans were halted pending legal action, with cases due in court later this month.

However, the company last week stressed to the Sunday National that it intended to proceed with lock changes if court cases were not successful.

The first case brought by Govan Law Centre is due to be heard later this month in the Court of Session. A further two cases may be brought by Shelter Scotland – and one other public law firm Legal – to the Sheriff court following that. They are currently sisted (on hold) until after the Court of Session dates.

Yet charities also raised concerns even if cases are successful, properties occupied by refused asylum seekers would not be handed over to Mears Group, with Serco remaining in charge of evictions even after the September transition date.

In 2012 the charity Y People – previously YMCA – evicted refused asylum seekers from its Glasgow properties after it lost the contract to Serco and its sub-contractor Orchard and Shipman. The charity initially planned to change locks – and did so in some cases – before backing down and raising eviction orders through the courts.

Some people continued to live in the almost empty Red Road building in Glasgow without gas or electricity during the process. Charities warned history must not be allowed to repeat itself.

Sheila Arthur, manager of the Asylum Seeker Housing (ASH) Project, said: “We are very concerned that over the coming months, Serco will take advantage of the transfer of the asylum accommodation contract to bully and intimidate asylum seekers out of their homes.

“This was precisely the tactic used by Y People in 2012 to evict refused asylum seekers when they lost the contract to Serco and we hope this will not be a case of history repeating itself.

“The Home Office and Police Scotland must guarantee that during the transition period the 300 people who Serco have been trying to illegally evict for months are protected from abuse and harassment.”

Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action on Housing, added: “The most important thing at this stage is the outcome of Court of Session on the lawfulness of asylum landlords turfing-out people on to the streets on a mere assumption about their legal status.

“The asylum contract in Scotland has changed hands multiple times since 2001 and each time the accommodation has simply been signed over to the next asylum landlord to deal with it.

“In terms of the people living with this change of contract they simply endure this misery, they want their paperwork so they can find jobs and get out of asylum run housing for good.”

The call was backed by Scottish Refugee Council who will continue to work with Shelter and others to offer weekly legal clinics for those facing eviction. So far around 70 people have been seen, with many getting the in-depth immigration legal advice needed to move back into the asylum system and back on to support. However numbers remain at the 300 mark due to others whose cases have seen been refused.

Stuart McDonald MP, SNP spokesman on immigration, asylum and border control, confirmed that he would attempt to seek clarity from UK Government ministers.

“Last time I know there were concerns about how the transfer was handled,” he added. “We will be looking for assurances from the Home Office that people aren’t left destitute or put in impossible situations.”

A spokesman for Serco stressed that the organisation was waiting for a court decision on lock changes.

At the time it said it unreservedly welcomed “such a legal challenge, as it will enable all parties to clarify an area of Scottish law which has so far been untested”.

It claims that it is currently providing free housing to some 300 overstayers for whom it is not being paid by the Home Office at its own expense.

Julia Rogers, managing director of Serco’s Immigration business, said: “We are obviously disappointed not to have won the competition in Scotland. Our job now is to complete the contract to the highest standard over the next nine months and hand over to the new provider in September. We will be working closely over the next nine months with the Home Office, local authority and the new provider to ensure a smooth transition of services.”

A spokesman for the Mears Group said it was too early to comment regarding what may happen to refused asylum seekers, who it will not have to house under the terms of the Home Office contract.

But he stressed that the value of the contracts had increased in order to add a “support” element for asylum seekers in addition to accommodation and said it would take a different approach to Serco. “This is a different contract,” he said. “The Government has recognised that more support was needed.

The Home Office declined to comment.