Mothers and babies seeking asylum in Scotland have been moved from cramped and unsafe housing – weeks after the Children and Young People’s Commissioner and campaigners demanded that they were urgently relocated.
The office of the Children’s Commissioner published a report in March which found women and their children were living in conditions that posed a significant risk of violating their human rights. Despite assurances from provider the Mears Group in November 2021 that the families would be moved, there were still 12 mums and their babies in the unit in Glasgow’s southside at the end of March.
However, they have all now been relocated to more suitable housing.
After being moved from the unit with her baby, one mum – who had lived there for 14 months – said: “I want to thank everyone who was behind us. I was in the mother and baby unit where the accommodation was not suited for babies and toddlers. Now we have been moved, we are in better places, and we are at peace. We are really thankful. We cried every day, and needed someone to listen and support us, and now it’s a big thank you. The accommodation we are in now is good, there’s a lot of space. You can play with your baby on the floor, you can see your baby crawl, you can see the baby going from crawling to standing up and starting to walk. All the steps that a child has to develop when they are growing. I’m overwhelmed and I’d like to say a thank you to all the organisations who helped and to Mears for moving us.”
Nick Hobbs, Head of Advice and Investigations at the Children’s Commissioner, said: “It’s a welcome development that mothers and their babies are now living in housing that is far more suitable for their needs but we are concerned that it took so long. We visited the unit last summer and saw for ourselves how shocking the conditions were and we called for the authorities to move the mums and their babies then. We’re pleased that the families have finally been moved but this can’t happen again. We must make sure all refugee and asylum-seeking children are treated with dignity and respect for their human rights.
“No child should live in conditions that violate their human rights and, once again, we are asking the Scottish Government to legislate urgently to create human rights-based statutory minimum housing standards for children.”
Yvonne Blake, co-founder of Migrants Organising for Rights and Empowerment (MORE), said: “The state has a duty of care to protect children seeking asylum and they were being robbed of their right to a safe, stable, and nurturing environment.
The mothers’ commitment to fighting until every mother and baby was relocated to safe housing – which is conducive to the nurturing and development of their babies – must be applauded and celebrated and we continue to celebrate the resistance and strength of the mothers who took the lead in this campaign. While we celebrate this victory, families are still living in Glasgow for prolonged periods in conditions that breach children’s human rights, for example in hotel rooms for too long.”
In April 2021, charities and grassroots organisations raised human rights concerns about the unit, formerly used to house single men. In June, the Commissioner’s team visited the accommodation and met mums and their children. There was no space to feed the babies, limited washing and cooking facilities, and little support. Cookers and heaters in the rooms were close to babies’ cots and it was not safe to let them play, crawl, or stand.
These conditions posed a significant risk of violating the children’s human rights, including the right to survival, safety and development; an adequate standard of living; the best possible health; family life, and the right to play.
Following discussions with the Mears Group, COSLA, and the HSPC, the Commissioner called for the mothers and babies to be rehoused and for Glasgow City Council, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and the HSCP to withdraw their support for the Home Office and Mears Group’s placements in the unit.
The Commissioner’s office also recently criticised the use of hotel and B&B accommodation for asylum-seeking families.
Mr Hobbs added: “Hotel accommodation is wholly unsuitable for children and families and should only be used on a short-term basis in an emergency. It is gravely concerning that children are being left for unacceptable periods of time crammed into hotel rooms and without the financial support they and their families need, leading some to become destitute. This is a violation of their human rights with severe impacts on health, education and development that can last long into later childhood and adulthood.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. Read the report Accommodation of Asylum-Seeking Mothers and Babies in Glasgow: A Human Rights Report by the office of the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland.
2. As well as advising that the mothers and babies were moved, the Commissioner’s report also recommended:
- COSLA and partners to amend procedures to ensure human rights duties of statutory agencies
- The Scottish Government to legislate to create human rights-based statutory minimum housing standards for children
- Glasgow City Council, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and the HSCP must commit to not approving any asylum accommodation for children that violates their human rights