The UK Supreme Court has refused permission to appeal in the test case seeking to protect asylum seekers in Glasgow from housing providers Serco evicting them by changing the locks on their properties, following refusal of their claims.
A panel of three Justices decided that the application in the case Ali v Serco Group plc did not raise an arguable point of law.
The test action for declarator and interdict sought to establish that people in the position of the pursuer, Shakar Ali, were protected from eviction by statute and at common law, and that Serco, which provided housing on behalf of the Home Office while claims for asylum were being considered, was covered by the Human Rights Act 1998 as it was exercising a function of a public nature. However the Inner House of the Court of Session found against the pursuer on all points (click here for report).
The decision exhausts the appeal possibilities for Ms Ali. At least 60 other eviction cases from Serco accommodation were also on hold pending the outcome of this appeal.
Govan Law Centre, which was part of a group acting for the asylum seekers, said it would now consider what further steps, if any, it could take.
Mike Dailly, solicitor advocate and principal solicitor at Govan Law Centre, commented: "We are deeply disappointed with this decision, but our immediate concern is for the health, safety and wellbeing of our clients and everyone in Serco accommodation in Glasgow during the COVID-19 crisis. We hope Serco will act responsibly and in the wider public interest in the present circumstances."
The Scottish Human Rights Commission, which was allowed to intervene in the proceedings before the Inner House, also expressed its disappointment. In a statement it said it believed the case "raises important issues about the protection of human rights where services are delivered by private contractors".
It added: "While each situation is different, the implications of the Court of Session’s judgment in November are nonetheless concerning for the protection of human rights in public services. The Commission notes the Court of Session’s interpretation of case law on the application of the Human Rights Act in the context of contracted out services. However, we believe there remains a lack of clarity in this area of law. In our view, this would have benefited from consideration and further clarification from the Supreme Court.
"We continue to believe that further work is needed to address the important question of how people’s rights are adequately protected when public services are delivered at arms' length from the state.
"To ensure clarity in practice, the state (including Scottish public bodies) should make human rights obligations explicit in relevant contracting arrangements with third parties, ensuring that contracts are appropriately monitored."
The UK Government has said it will not enforce evictions of asylum seekers during the current COVID-19 crisis. Housing for asylum seekers in Glasgow is now provided by a different company, which has said it will not pursue evictions by changing locks.