Women Speak Out from the Scottish Asylum System

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Refugees continue to struggle for their rights in Glasgow and across Scotland. Now, the No Eviction Network is helping them expose new and unjust living arrangements for women with small children.

We are calling on your support to join us in ensuring mothers and pregnant women in the asylum process are housed in safe accommodation.

In January 2021, the Mears Group unveiled its latest housing initiative in Glasgow for pregnant women and mothers with babies under two years old. This ‘open prison style’ facility will house 37 mothers with babies for a maximum of two years. To date over 20 mothers and children are in the facility.

Some of the mothers were removed from accommodation where they had already made efforts to integrate into the community, when they were moved to a self-contained hostel style building which had originally been designed to accommodate single young adults.

The mothers were not consulted in regard to needs and vulnerability assessments to ascertain if the living conditions would be safe for and/or in the best interests of children and mothers.

It is extremely concerning to the mothers and pregnant women who have been relocated at the height of a global public health crisis, that they are being uprooted by the Home Office and Mears from their settled private accommodation to shared, self-contained units. This significantly increases the risk of Covid-19 and even death.

The NHS identifies pregnant women as people at higher risk from Covid-19. The immediate concern is that mothers are starting to experience a decline in their emotional and mental health, with some having even expressed suicidal thoughts or feelings of depression.

What follows are anonymous testimonies from different women in the facility:

“We were subjected to harassment, intimidation…threatened with deportation if we did not comply – no one wants to be deported so we just complied.”

“It feels like I’ve been uprooted from my community and dumped here like hot potato.”

“For a place they’re calling ‘mother and baby unit’, no consideration whatsoever has been given to the babies. Babies have no place to play but in the toilet.”

“It is practically one tiny room, impossible to live with a toddler. I have to be holding my baby all day because there is no area/space for them to play”.

“It feels like prison the rooms are not properly ventilated, it is suffocating and don’t lock from the inside.”

“It breaks my heart every day, most days and nights. I just cry for my child, I feel so helpless. It is not safe, I can only put the play mat right next to the stove, there are no safety gates or doors.”

“I received a call when I was in the hospital that I would be moved to a new flat, but after epidural injections I was moved here one week after leaving the hospital”.

All mothers should have the right to live in safe housing, in an environment that: enables them to raise their children in dignity, is conducive to their physical health, mental health and overall wellbeing and protects them from the exposure and spreading of Covid-19.

The above rights are enshrined in national and international legislation.

BME communities, charities and grassroots organisations including MORE, SHARPEN Her, Radiant and Brighter Community Interest Company, NEN, and Migration UK who are currently supporting the women in their various circumstances are calling for:

• All mothers be relocated to safe accommodation or returned to old accommodation immediately

until adequate assessments are taken to ensure the safety of babies /pregnant women.

• Further moves of mothers and babies into this accommodation are stopped with immediate effect.

• In the interim all child safety gates are fitted in the self-contained units.

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