PLANS to evict hundreds of asylum seekers from their homes is exacerbating trauma and anxiety among one of Scotland’s most vulnerable communities, a leading mental health charity has said.

The Mental Health Foundation issued the warning on World Refugee Day, after Serco announced last week it would initiate lock change evictions in the coming weeks for 300 people living in Glasgow who had been refused the right to stay in the UK.

Private housing providers are only paid by the Home Office for accommodation for asylum seekers who are going through the process to remain in the UK and do not receive payments for those who have been refused.

Lee Knifton, head of Mental Health Foundation Scotland, said: “Serco’s actions are inflicting unnecessary panic, fear and anxiety on asylum seekers who are, in many cases, recovering from trauma, shows that there’s been no consideration for their health and wellbeing by the company or indeed the Home Office.”

He urged Serco and the UK Government to “put an end to the enduring climate of intimidation and fear” and “work constructively with Glasgow City Council” whose leader Susan Aitken has warned the evictions could lead to “mass destitution and homelessness”.

He said: “Asylum seekers are men, women and children who have been uprooted from their homes and communities around the world and forced to seek the protection of another country. They have faced persecution, perhaps due to conflict, to their political or religious beliefs, their gender or sexuality. We should be making it easier, not harder, for them to recover from trauma and lead meaningful and fulfilling lives.”

Knifton noted asylum seekers are five times more likely to have mental health needs, such as post-traumatic stress, than the general population and more than 61% will experience serious mental distress. They’re also less likely to receive mental health support than the general population due to cultural and language barriers and stigma, he said.

Serco has previously said the lock change policy was “not a step we have taken lightly”.

It guaranteed that no more than 30 people would be issued with lock-changing notices in any one week, that tenants would be given at least 21 days’ notice to make alternative arrangements and that no children would be left homeless. It has also promised to donate up to £150,000 to charities supporting homeless people in Glasgow.

A Home Office spokesperson said last week: “The Home Office takes the wellbeing of asylum seekers and the local communities in which they live extremely seriously.”

Serco failed to get its UK Government contract to house asylum seekers renewed with a new contractor due to take over the tender.