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Mothers and babies moved from ‘cramped, unsafe’ asylum seeker unit in Glasgow

Mothers and babies have been moved from ‘cramped and unsafe’ conditions in Glasgow’s southside (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Mothers and babies have been moved from ‘cramped and unsafe’ conditions in Glasgow’s southside (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Mothers and babies seeking asylum in Scotland have been moved from housing deemed “cramped and unsafe” following a campaign.

At the end of March, there were 12 mothers and babies still living at a unit in Glasgow’s southside, despite assurances from housing and care provider the Mears Group that families would be moved.

The facility previously provided accommodation to single men, and a visit from inspectors in June 2021 found there was no room to feed babies, few washing and cooking facilities, and that it was not safe for the children to play, crawl or stand.

Conditions in the unit posed a possible violation of the children’s human rights, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner said.

One mother who has now been moved with her baby said: “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.”

The commissioner had previously called for Glasgow City Council, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Glasgow’s Health and Social Care Partnership to withdraw support for the placements within the units.

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.”