Chris Stephens MP slams outsourcing of refugee housing at Westminster


SNP MP raises problems of accountability under circumstances where refugee services are outsourced to private firms by the Home Office

CHRIS STEPHENS, SNP MP for Glasgow South West, has slammed the provision of refugee services through private contractors in a speech at Westminster.

Speaking at a debate in Westminster Hall on Tuesday (5 July) about the condition of asylum seekers in Glasgow, Stephens said that outsourcing may be considered a good policy option for UK Governments as it removes them from both the responsibility to provide services and the embarrassment of being shown to fail to treat refugees decently.

He said: “Outsourcing may well suit the UK Government as it is not just service delivery that is outsourced but a fair degree of accountability too. 

“Many of us lost count of how many carefully drafted FOIs and parliamentary questions are not answered on sometimes pretty dubious grounds of either disproportionate costs or commercial confidentiality. I trust the Home Affairs Select Committee will look at those issue of accountability. 

“It may well suit the UK Government to have its contractors, or any sub-contractors, on the front-page of media exposes rather than Ministers directly: the reality is taking such hits for future contracts could in the longer-term be worth it.”

Read: Evictions, bullying, racism: The horror faced by Scotland's asylum seekers revealed

Stephens made special mention of the Orchard and Shipman company, which has been awarded a multi-million pound contract to house refugees by the Home Office, but which was revealed by CommonSpace to be facing a storm of criticism by refugees in Glasgow who said they had faced abuse at the company’s hands.

Refugees reported experiences of racism, bullying and forced eviction by the company, which is a subcontractor for security multi-national Serco.

However Stephen’s went on to say that devolved and local government oversight of refugee provisions was already bearing positive results in Scotland, and could result in effective resettlement for refugees fleeing war and persecution.

He said: “There is something really valuable in having devolved and local-level oversight and delivery of housing for asylum seekers in terms of one, weaving them into joined-up services, two,  having democratic oversight and accountability, as well as having, thirdly, flexibility to, for instance, flip accommodation at the point of positive decision to enable continuity of housing for the refugee as well as community cohesion.

“Not surprisingly, we are starting to see signs of some of this value through Syrian resettlement in Scotland, especially in terms of efforts at joined-up services, local accountability and efforts to ensure there is effective integration,” he added.

Read: Syrian families thankful for welcome but struggling in Glasgow

Scotland has taken around two thirds of all refugees from a new UK Government scheme to transport 20,000 Syrian refugees to the UK from camps in and around Syria.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called for the UK to accept more refugees from the European continent after millions fled war and social collapse in the Middle East and North Africa throughout 2015-16.

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