A “devastating” decision by the Home Office to speed up thousands of asylum claims will lead to a homelessness crisis in Glasgow, it has been warned.
During an emergency meeting of councillors in the City Chambers on Thursday morning, it was heard that around 1,400 people are likely to be granted asylum within Glasgow by the end of year.
It could lead to more than a thousand homeless applications in the next three months and cost the city’s “already stretched” homelessness service more than £53m.
The UK Government also confirmed it will not be providing funding to councils to help manage the costs.
Glasgow City Council expects around 2,500 decisions on asylum to be made by the end of the calendar year, and if the services can’t meet the demand it is expected many of those would be left sleeping rough.
The report said that there was already limited capacity within available accommodation in the city and noted the requirement for increased use of B&B and hotels for those seeking asylum.
The Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) has already been seeking to cut back on its use of high-cost hotel accommodation as it faces overspending its budget by £16m.
In a report to councillors, Anemarie O’Donnell, the council’s chief executive and Susanne Millar, chief officer of the HSCP, said: “As a result of the Home Office decision, the number of people likely requiring homelessness assistance will increase and the HSCP’s Homelessness Service will find it exceedingly challenging to meet the additional demand.
“In April this year more than 600 positive decisions were made in Glasgow which required a major response from our asylum refugee team.
“This figure has since translated to increased homelessness applications and an increase in the use of hotel and B&B placements, particularly for single males.”
Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council, described the Home Office plan as “devastating” and said the “unmanageable” cost of more than £50m would cause suffering among thousands of people.
She said: “The Home Office is embarking on a course of action which will be devastating for refugees and for cities across the UK.
“For Glasgow, a sudden cost of around £50m is simply unmanageable and the suffering caused to thousands of people who will suddenly be pushed into destitution is simply unimaginable.
“I want to see people humanely treated by the asylum system. Refugees and immigrants have enriched Glasgow’s culture for centuries and I am so proud that people want to make their home here. But this unstructured, unplanned and ill-conceived action will cause massive harm to people and to institutions across the country.
“The Home Office is doing this as a cover to their failure; they want to free up space in the North of England and Scotland to allow them to empty hotels in the South. They hope this will convince their voters they are getting a grip. Out of sight, out of mind is now the entirety of their asylum policy.
“Even at this late stage we can work with the Home Office. They need to do this in a planned and structured way and they need to provide cities with the resources to manage this. The human and financial cost of their current course is simply too much.”
When a person receives a positive decision, they are given 28 days to leave accommodation provided by Mears – which has the Home Office contract to house asylum seekers.
Based on current data, approximately 77% of households who receive a positive decision in Glasgow and become official refugee status go on to make a homelessness application.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The pressure on the asylum system has continued to grow, which is why we have taken immediate action to speed up processing times and cut costs for taxpayers.
“To minimise the risk of homelessness, we encourage individuals to make their onward plans as soon as possible after receiving their decision, whether that is leaving the UK following a refusal, or taking steps to integrate in the UK following a grant.
“We offer ample support once claims have been granted through Migrant Help, access to the labour market and advice on applying for Universal Credit.”
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