WE all need a home: somewhere to relax, have privacy, live in dignity. Women, men and children fleeing war, violence and persecution have lost everything. They are torn away from all that is familiar and precious to them. They, more than most, desperately need safe shelter, a home.

Seeking refugee protection is a fundamental human right. Its genesis is from genocide: the international community’s revulsion at the Holocaust and firm resolve not to leave people so unprotected again.

Some politicians would do well to remember that when pronouncing on the tiny number of desperate crossings in the English channel of those using this precious right of protection that belongs to all of us.

Communities and organisations supporting refugees know how perversely contorted the asylum system is, how it is peppered with points of destitution, and how too often refugees are prevented from getting what they so desperately need.

A safe home is their priority so for us at Scottish Refugee Council that too is what counts most. That is why the announcement this week, that the multinational company Serco will no longer be responsible for this public service, matters so much.

For the past seven years we and so many other campaigners, parliamentarians and Glaswegians – city-born or not – have worked with refugees in Glasgow and done their best to ensure the Home Office and its agent, Serco provide safe and secure housing and treat people with dignity.

Sometimes Serco did achieve this – and it would be remiss not to acknowledge that. But too often, we found it, or their old sub-contractor Orchard and Shipman, fell short.

I and colleagues have been in plenty of sub-standard housing and heard from refugees about disrespectful treatment.

I remember seeing the trauma in the young boy’s eyes with his soldier’s helmet riding his little tricycle, as his mum described a hazardous Mediterranean crossing and the terrible abuse she fled.

I remember the mother and baby living in grossly overcrowded conditions, a few crawls away from the cooker and the sharp knives in the corner of what amounted to no more than a box-room.

I remember the desperate, but friendly men, taking drugs but a few stairs away from where a young traumatised refugee family lived in a close daubed with race hate graffiti.

We were outraged then and remain so now.

No one, from Scotland or wherever, deserves this. However, what we saw in Glasgow was exposed too across the north of England, in the Midlands and in South Wales. The Home Affairs committee, the Independent Chief Inspector for Immigration and so many others bore witness and spoke out.

Otherwise, refugees may be left to suffer in silence. Angry but scared to speak, so not to upset the Home Office.

However, these are all symptoms of the Home Office sanctioning, through outsourcing to massive private companies, a parallel public service in plain sight. It is no accident Serco were not formally accountable to Glasgow City Council. It was by design.

The Mears Group has signalled a fresh start in how this crucial public service is to be run in Glasgow.

We should be clear, though, that the new contract does not make them subject to local democratic scrutiny or inspections. Serco never reported to a council committee on what they were doing.

We call on the Home Office to ask Mears to make themselves fully accountable.

Until that democratic deficit is filled, the fear persists that nothing has really changed. And, that means the risk remains that we might never know if women, men and children in Glasgow are still put into or left in sub-standard housing or feel they have suffered unbidden entry or wait forever for their heating to be fixed.

We should remember no matter who provides the housing, that this is a public service.

Nor should we forget it is to women, men and children that have lost everything, traumatised, with profound loss.

Glasgow’s people did not forget this last summer when organising and resisting Serco’s plan to evict people by changing the locks on their front door, nor before then either.

This solidarity is the best source of protection to our refugee citizens.