COMPANIES working with refugee accommodation provider Mears in Glasgow will meet next week to decide what legal action they can take after they were left tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket.

More than a dozen Scottish firms had been sourcing accommodation for Mears since last year, when it won the contract to provide housing for asylum seekers and refugees from Serco.

However, they claim Mears has directed the sourcing to two national companies, which in turn have asked the local firms to find it for them – doubling the cost.

The head of one company involved, who asked to remain anonymous, said they had been approached by both companies, but had refused to work with them.

They told The National: “Bear in mind that each time they secure accommodation, they will both be taking their cut. This was for initial accommodation purposes when a client first comes into the country ... They used to put them into hotels but they’ve moved on and taken on serviced accommodation.

“They’ve been contracted with us since December ... and they’ve refused to pay our fees.

“We’re out of pocket by about £50,000 at the moment – there are other companies a lot larger than us in a similar situation, but for a lot more.

“A lot of these companies are transfer agents – it seems like it’s a bit of a gravy train because there are two companies in the chain.

“We’re sitting on Mears’ doorstep, along with other companies, and they could have picked up the phone and placed a booking with us and saved about 30%.”

The source added that the impasse could affect asylum seekers and refugees who need accommodation once the coronavirus crisis is over.

“We’ll be meeting with other providers to see what kind of legal action we can take, because once this pandemic stops are the clients going to stay in hotels or are they going to be looking for accommodation,” they said.

“We wouldn’t be willing to work with these guys ever again.

“I’ve dealt with Serco in the past and maybe they made mistakes in different areas, but they weren’t going through these other companies and were contacting companies here direct.

“When this is all over, the hotels aren’t going to take these people on – what are they going to do?”

READ MORE: Concerns as asylum seekers distressed over hotels move

The National reported last month that hundreds of asylum seekers were moved from mostly self-contained accommodation in Glasgow into city centre hotels, where it was claimed social-distancing measures were not in place.

A manager for one of the service providers told us yesterday: “Once the people were moved there were times there were four or five of them in a welfare vehicle at the same time.”

Gary Christie, Scottish Refugee Council head of policy, said: “People’s health and safety in hotels and other types of accommodation is obviously a massive priority right now and as we come out of lockdown.

“We’re seeking immediate clarity and reassurance from Mears about this.”

A Mears spokesperson said the market leading company had been operating for more than 30 years, and added: “While some service users in Glasgow are currently being provided hotel accommodation, Mears has strict social distancing procedures in place and are supporting people to observe the regulations.

“Mears has been working with landlords in Glasgow to assist in delivery of asylum-seeker accommodation since September.

“Mears has had a constructive relationship with the majority of these firms and has ensured that landlords with whom it is contracted are paid.

“However, where there are any disputes Mears will respond to the companies directly and work to resolve them and investigate such claims rigorously.”