‘There is a humanitarian crisis in Glasgow’

From Robina Qureshi

Last Thursday, our staff and volunteers were working on the ground, organising food, PPE and mobile phones for the asylum seekers who were moved after the Park Inn Tragedy on June 26 to the Hallmark Hotel in Glasgow. This happened barely six weeks following the death of a suicidal Syrian refugee, Adnan Elbi, on May 5 in the Mclays Hotel.

All were placed in hotels by the Mears Group, an outsourcing company working in Housing management & social care, employing 10,000 people. (In relation to the growing scandal in Glasgow, six Scottish MPs refused to meet with Mears CEO John Taylor on Friday 26 June 2020, citing “trust issues”.)

While there, two asylum seeking approached us. “Ahmed” said there were people struggling at a place called the Tartan Lodge, where Mears has placed them.

The next day, we visited the Tartan Lodge. One of our volunteers Umran Amin brought halal meals, chicken and rice, with some dessert.

There are 30 people from Iraq, Iran, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Vietnam and elsewhere being kept in the Tartan Lodge under the “care“ of Mears, They complained of being malnourished with food not fit for human consumption and left without any money or support.
The kitchen is off limits. The laundry is allowed once a week. You wash your clothes in sinks or under the bathroom shower. The rooms are not cleaned. Bedding has not been changed in 90 days. People complain of bedbugs.

The most mentioned problem was food. It’s not enough, not the right kind, and unsuitable for different cultures. There are no plates. The food is brought in plastic take away containers. Your entire meal is that. You eat out of them. One couple asked for plates, and were given one plate between them. The lady that brings the food warms the containers in a microwave and gives the food to residents barely warm. People tell us they have to return the cartons, and these are reused and redistributed until they fall apart. “Nadeem” said that he splits his breakfast of plastic wrapped dry croissant and apple in case the food is so bad at lunch. Sometimes the lunch does not arrive until 2 or 3 pm. You wait and wait.
All bar none have complained about poorly cooked food problems and in some cases bed bugs . One young man was covered in bed bug bites Many are desperately worried about families back home. Amongst them:
1. A former UN worker of 18 years standing who had to flee for his life, and desperately worried for his family.
2. A civil servant from Sierra Leone forced to leave his country to save his life
3. a Highly articulate wealthy musician who became stranded here due to US sanctions on Iran which prevent him accessing his money.
4. a couple who have got refugee status and are the responsibility of the council to rehouse.
5. One man is deeply isolated. He spoke no English at all and no one speaks his.
Six people did not have functioning smart phones until our volunteers Eilidh, Lisa and Jake brought one.
Nasir” said that many people sleep in order to dissociate from what is happening around them. He said:
“We have complained to Migrant Help and Mears. They say they will look at it but nothing happens.”
Another man said:
“I complained about the food, and she said if you don’t like it, you will be sent to a detention centre and then you will be deported”. .
In response, we arranged crisis support for those in greatest need, sourced mobile phones. We have deployed some amazing volunteers to take food, help clean flats and even deliver clean beds and furniture for those being moved into homes.
Yesterday, on Monday 6 July, we organised a press conference to highlight the living plight of people at the Tartan Lodge. We were due to start at 11 am. At 11.09 am, I received a text message from a young man from Sierra Leone saying: “The hotel people have closed the door”. At 11.17 am, another message saying “The guys are stopping us not to go out”. Then another saying “They closed the door”. Eventually, the men managed to get out. They told the assembled press what happened.
While the people of Glasgow once again pick up the pieces of Mears neglect and provide human support, the Mears Group picks up a lucrative £1.2B Asylum Housing contract.
It’s CEO John Taylor has failed to attend a single interview or answer any of the concerns raised since Adnan Elbi died alone in his room at the Mclays Guest house or the treatment of refugees at Park Inn, the failure to carry out the most basic of vulnerability checks before moving people.

Ultimately though, this is not about food or bed bugs. It is about human beings being warehoused for profit by one company and the systematic abuse of their most basic human rights which leaves people functionally destitute, systematically isolated, and fearful of being punished for fear of their case being affected if they speak out about the shameful conditions they are forced to endure. People are terrified of being made destitute and being returned to dangerous countries. It is a matter of shame that up to the present time, this apartheid system operates for those who come to our country to seek refuge. It is time for the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council go do more to stop Mears and the Home Office in their tracks and challenge the abuses of the most vulnerable.
If you want to help, please support our Call to Action below and give a regular donation, however modest. .

Thank you for your support thus far.

Yours sincerely,

Robina Qureshi


There is a humanitarian crisis going on in Glasgow.

We are calling on the Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken to instruct her officials that the policy of Glasgow City Council is that the asylum housing contract should revert to Council (in the same way as sheffield Council has done)and for the Mears contract to be terminated by the Home Office.

therefore we are renewing our call for a public investigation into the treatment of asylum seekers in Glasgow at the hands of Mears. Almost 1000 organisations and private citizens have now provided message of support and signed in support of a full public investigation into the failure of Mears/Home Office to carry out its duty of care or vulnerability assessments with a community of people who have been left highly vulnerable. To add your name, click here .

Since Lockdown, our charity together with an extensive network of volunteers and well wishers have distributed over thousands of pounds in crisis grants for mobile phone top ups, food, heating and rent arrears, and countless technology.

Do you have a spare smart phone?

Please erase the contents and reset your devices, sanitise it, then pop it in a Jiffy bag and donate to us so we can pass it onto people desperately in need.

Donate by posting to: Positive Action in Housing, 98 West George Street Glasgow G2 1PJ. Alternatively, email home@positiveactionh.org to arrange a drop off.


This is a lifeline for the people we support. Now more than ever we need your help so we can pass it on to those in greatest need.

Crisis grants are assessed continuously and go straight to asylum seekers who are in need. Anyone wishing to donate can do so at this secure link:


For other ways to give, go to our website: https://www.positiveactionh.org/donate

See also our Twitter, Facebook and website about our concerns about the hotel detention of asylum seekers.

Thank you for your support, and please do get in touch with your thoughts, we read all your emails and they help shape our emergency strategy.

Donate safely and securely here or via JustGiving or PayPal.

Set up a monthly donation here

For other ways to give, go to http://www.paih.org/donate

Companies, organisations and non profits can request an invoice for tax/auditing purposes, email accounts@positiveactionh.org.

Or, Post a cheque (made payable to Positive Action in Housing Ltd) to:

Positive Action in Housing
98 West George Street
Glasgow G2 1PJ

Donate via internet banking:
Account name: Positive Action in Housing
Sort Code: 82 20 00 Account: 00447398

Remember to “gift aid” your donation if you are a U.K. taxpayer, just email financeassistant@positiveactionh.org

Help someone from a refugee background get back on their feet by offering a temporary self contained accommodation or a room (all guests are screened)
Sign up here – for more info email info@roomforrefugees.com
Background to this appeal

Positive Action in Housing’s Lifeline Service provides a breathing space so that people can decide their options and create a forward plan with their lawyer and caseworker. This approach has produced life transforming outcomes, putting autonomy back into peoples’ lives.

We focus resources on those at risk of exploitation: unaccompanied children, families, pregnant woman, the elderly and sick, and lone individuals living in poverty and people with health problems/disabilities.

As well as arranging shelter, our Winter Surgery provides bus tokens, food vouchers and hygiene packs, with books and art materials for children. We will also provide crisis grants to ensure people in these vulnerable and at-risk groups do not go hungry, cold, or forced to live on the street.

In 2018/19, Positive Action in Housing assisted 1,501 destitute refugees & asylum seekers from Syria, Eritrea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Palestine and Yemen with advice, legal representation, shelter, and crisis funds at crucial stages in their settlement. We provided 48K nights of shelter (www.roomforrefugees.com) and distributed £60K from our Emergency Relief Fund – providing a genuine lifeline. We work to resolve a crisis and rebuild lives.
See our latest impact report

Thank you for supporting this appeal.

Positive Action in Housing
Working together to rebuild lives

Scottish Registered Charity SC027577

5 thoughts on “‘There is a humanitarian crisis in Glasgow’”

  1. BBC Scotland will be on this…….. Right?

    They have an ethnically diverse workforce……….. Right?

    That is if you count Irish and English people as “ethnics”.

    Otherwise BBC Scotland is somewhat “WHITE”.

    But, to be fair…..it is also Orange and Red, White and Blue.


    1. Great article John, thanks for posting.

      G O. Aye Right

      In the last few weeks the BBC in Scotland have been encouraging Scots to travel in Aluminum tubes to foreign countries.
      Go over the border to drink in English Pubs.
      This morning doing their damnest to encourage shoppers not to wear face coverings


  2. I have to admire the intelligence of Mears in how it deals with asylum seekers. I almost wrote ‘the genius of Mears’ but then, it doesn’t take a genius to work out how to isolate and then exploit people who have no recourse to public funds and often no contacts within the Scottish community, and no say in their own fate.

    So Mears shoves them into hotels and boarding houses, out of sight of most of the population, and that lets us suppose they’re being cared for. Last week a woman who (her words) ‘sometimes gets the bus outside Mclays Hotel’ assured me the people we’re talking about are ‘the dross’. I suspect she’s one who has fallen for the UKIP, Farage, EDL line on what are variously called ‘immigrants’, ‘migrants’, ‘refugees’ and ‘illegal immigrants’. I’ve also been told this week that ‘these people’ get £90 a day to live on, have their rent paid and don’t work because they don’t need to.

    I reckon the UK has gone as far as it can in ‘othering’ poor people – either from other parts of the world or even in our own communities. We live in a place that is paranoid, scared of the rest of the world, desperate to withdraw as far as it can from all other countries (apart from the USA which has the same problems, thanks to Trump). We want to be a world power but deny any responsibility for what happens in the world. The destabilisation of the Middle East has nothing to do with us. We take no responsibility for our colonial past. We’re the victims in all this. And we get very worked up about poor people trying to cross the English Channel.

    And, to finish, has anyone given much thought to the poor sick bugger who was shot after being mistaken for a terrorist- or for the police officer who killed him.


    1. You ‘admire the intelligence of Mears’? Really? That reaction isn’t exactly in keeping with what the article is trying to convey – those are real people with real lives that have been forced to leave their own country in awful circumstances, and they are being treated inhumanly by Mears. Yet you admire Mears?

      I am actually truly shocked that anyone would go to the effort of making such a comment on this article.


    2. Why don’t you have a watch of this video about anti-racism and reflect on how you yourself have described the refugees?

      This is worth watching:

      As for your use of ‘we’: for a primarily English audience that may be appropriate, but you are talking to a primarily Scottish audience here, where I think a different set of issues need to be addressed – certainly not the ‘need to be a world power’. Mixing up uk and England is something we are trying to put an end to. Here was a comment I made in reply to a deflection on the intent of a previous comment for a primarily English audience from the above link, here ‘we’ is me being part of the U.K.:

      “Going back to the first reply by Johan G: that it was the Spanish what done it, I think therein lies the big fundamental problem here – the British Empire and people’s attitude to what they believe it is. Maybe it didn’t ‘invent’ racism, but it applied it wholesale throughout the world – and it owned most of the world there for a while – to its own benefit. It used it to strip countries of assets, destroy cultures, commit genocide and torture with impunity. What the British Empire did invent were concentration camps – that’s where the Germans got the idea from.

      By dehumanising whole races and cultures the British Empire justified the atrocities it committed, slave trading was just one aspect to my mind.

      Until we start looking at the real histories, own up to the actual atrocities committed, stop defending a dead and defunct British Imperial project, stop feeling inherently superior because of it: we will never lose that inherently racist attitude. Deflection, by saying that it was Spain in this case, is one of the main techniques used to avoid owning up to the cruel history (usually you hear ‘France was just as bad’ etc). That rosy glow of satisfaction as you consider how Great the British Empire was and how superior you are because of it – very effective propaganda to control the masses – is what you need to lose to make any kind of progress in accepting other cultures and peoples as equal. Different is not something to fear or denigrate or try to change, it’s what makes the world an interesting and exciting place to live in. You don’t have to be superior to have your own culture and to be proud of it, and a society whose only identity is based on such feelings is not a pleasant one.

      There have been recent calls to teach ‘real history’ in schools – as if the State would allow that! – and if they did it would be good, but it needs to start with us the people finding out what it is, accepting it, and moving on to a better place.

      If you want to be anti-racist, start by owning up to the darker more unpleasant parts of our histories, and then re-examine your attitudes to other cultures.”

      In Scotland though, there are other issues that we need to address, we have been subjected to the discrimination, but also influenced by it – we discussed this in a separate thread though so I won’t go into it here. I have yet to come across a Scottish person that has expressed concern about the English Channel.


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