Statement re IH decision in Ali v. Serco and others – Wednesday, 3 November 2019 at 12.30pm, Govan Law Centre

Mike Dailly, solicitor advocate at Govan Law Centre said: “This is GLC ‘s brief statement on Scotland’s Supreme Court’s appeal ruling in Ali v. Serco Ltd, the Secretary of State for the Home Department and Compass SNI Ltd.  

The Inner House has refused our client’s appeal and allowed the cross-appeal for the Home Office. We will study the court’s opinion carefully and take our clients instructions in relation to seeking permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court. 

This is a truly sad day for human rights law in Scotland. 

In allowing the Home Office’s cross-appeal the effect of today’s ruling is that the UK Government can outsource is statutory and international legal obligations to a private company.  In effect that means one can “contract-out” of the 1998 Human Rights Act.  That is disturbing and gives rise to significant public policy problems in Scotland.

The court’s ruling begins with the sentence: “The appellant is a failed asylum seeker”.  

Those seven words are at the heart of the hostile environment of the UK’s treatment of asylum seekers – because making an application for asylum is not linear or binary.  Our clients experience is that they can and will secure new evidence and become refugees even when they have been refused asylum.

Scotland’s highest civil court has ruled that vulnerable asylum seekers can be evicted without the need to go to court.   That lock change evictions are a private law matter where Serco can take the law into its own hands.  

How does this fit with a modern, progressive, outward looking 21st century Scotland?  What does it say to the international community?

If the true measure of any society is found in how it treats its most vulnerable members, then today is truly a sad day for Scotland. “

Lorna Walker, senior solicitor and partner at Govan Law Centre said: “This is hugely disappointing. It has always felt so wrong to us that Serco (or indeed anyone) could change the locks of someone’s home by simply serving a 7 day notice letter, in English when the majority cannot read or understand English.”

“Serco would rely on what the home office said, mainly that this group of people were ‘appeal rights exhausted’ but most (if not all) of the cases we were involved in, had instructed an asylum and immigration solicitor to progress a fresh claim. In one of our cases our client was granted asylum 2 weeks after we secured an interim interdict to prevent his locks from being changed. This is a perfect example of how dangerous it is to change someone’s locks without following a due process.”

“To lose your home and become street homeless (especially when you have no recourse to public funds) is one of the worst things that can happen to a human being.”

“It remains our position that without a court of law and simply proceeding with lock change evictions, the outcome will be catastrophic with people ending up street homeless.”

“This determination is not only disappointing for the Appellant, it has profound consequences for everyone in Scotland.”

“We are deeply concerned that it was held that the Human Rights Act does not extend far enough to protect this vulnerable group of people from being evicted in this way.”

Media Reaction

You can read more media reaction here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-50389904

https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/14894/sad-day-scotland-court-rules-serco-not-obligated-human-rights-law-lock-change

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/b/court-allows-serco-to-carry-out-lock-change-evictions-on-asylum-seeker-homes

https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18033511.court-session-rules-serco-asylum-seeker-evictions-lawful/

https://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/18034665.serco-lock-changes-create-housing-apartheid-glasgow-say-campaigners-legal-appeal-fails/

https://planetradio.co.uk/clyde/local/news/serco-lock-change-eviction-lawful/

https://www.scotsman.com/news-2-15012/judge-dismisses-legal-challenge-by-glasgow-asylum-seekers-1-4906607

You can read the full judgement here: https://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/docs/default-source/cos-general-docs/pdf-docs-for-opinions/2019csih54.pdf?sfvrsn=0

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