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Every mother and baby in Scotland has the right to safe, suitable accommodation.

 

Asylum seekers are no exception.

#FreedomToCrawl

What is #FreedomToCrawl?

When Home Office accommodation provider, Mears Group, opened a mother and baby unit for asylum seekers in Glasgow, a coalition of asylum and family support organisations came together to campaign for its closure.

 

In January 2021, 2021, 20+ expectant and new mothers seeking asylum were moved to a new mother and baby unit in Glasgow run by Mears. Many of these women were forced out of settled accommodation into cramped bedsits. 

Now, everyday life for these mothers and babies is confined to one small room, with the cot just steps away from the cooker and a window that barely opens. 

We believe that all babies should have #FreedomToCrawl. Find out how you can support the movement here.

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Example room layout

 

Our Goals

Short term

We are here!

1

Get Mears to immediately commit in writing to implementing vulnerability assessments conducted by an independent, family support specialist agency.

2

Get Mears to commit to not moving any more women, or anyone in the wider asylum network into the accommodation.

Medium term

  • Get Mears to commit to moving all women and children into self-contained accommodation, and be given adequate support in the transition.
     

  • Get Mears to conduct an Equality and Impact Assessment on the policy decision to open and keep the unit. 

Long term

  • End the use of sub standard/privatised asylum and refugee accommodation

 

“If I put my feet down from the bed, I’m stepping into the kitchen – this is how small it is.

 

The baby cannot play,
the baby cannot crawl”.

Support the movement

Help make sure all babies in Glasgow have #FreedomtoCrawl

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Tell your friends, tell your family - tell everyone! We want as many people as possible to know about and show support for these vulnerable mothers and babies.

Write to your M(S)P

M(S)P involvement will be crucial to achieving real change. Make sure your M(S)P knows how you feel about these living arrangements. We've even made a template for you to make it as easy as possible!

Virtually!

Join our demonstration

On 12 July we will be soon be hosting a virtual demonstration on Zoom where you can join to show your support, learn more about the issue and connect with likeminded people. Details to follow.

 

Campaign updates

Thursday 27 May, 2021

Campaign launched!

REFUGEE SUPPORT ORGANISATIONS ACROSS GLASGOW CALL FOR CLOSURE OF MEARS MOTHER AND BABY UNIT 

#FreedomToCrawl campaign aims to end the use of institutional accommodation for families in the asylum process

A coalition of charities, grassroots organisations, and legal experts across Glasgow are calling upon the Home Office to close a local mother and baby unit run by Mears Group. Launching today under the banner of the Roof Coalition, the #FreedomToCrawl campaign invites the public to take action to ensure that every baby and child in Glasgow has access to safe, suitable housing—including those in the asylum process. 

#FreedomToCrawl was launched in response to Mears’ decision in January 2021 to move 20 new and expectant mothers seeking asylum into multiple occupancy housing. Many of these women were moved from settled accommodation within supportive communities and are now expected to stay in cramped bedsits with their babies for one year or more.

The #FreedomToCrawl campaign condemns the increasing use of this type of institutional setting to house people in the asylum process. Institutional accommodation denies asylum seekers the stability, privacy, and sense of safety they need to rebuild their lives. Children living in this environment are denied freedom of movement and the right to play. 

The campaign also provides a platform for residents to share their concerns about the suitability of the unit, as their voices too often go unheard. The rooms are far too small for children to play and safely explore their environment. Mothers struggle to keep their babies safe from harm, with cots just steps away from cookers and no way to baby-proof the kitchenette. 

One resident said, “If I put my feet down from the bed, I’m stepping into the kitchen—this is how small it is. The baby cannot play, the baby cannot crawl. We were told that coming here we’d be safe and have space for the baby, but it’s the opposite to that.” 

The premise was formerly a homelessness resettlement project funded by Glasgow City Council. It was decommissioned in 2020 due to the small size of the rooms (for single occupants) and the unsuitability of the building to support independent living.  

Meghan O’Neill, Senior Community Organiser with housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland said: 

“There can be no excuse for failing to uphold dignity in the housing system. We are dismayed at the Home Office for again sanctioning agents who show such little regard for the well-being of women and their children who desperately need safe, secure, and suitable accommodation.

Housing and social care provider Mears Group have disregarded the standards of housing that we apply to temporary accommodation in Scotland and in doing so are turning their backs on single mothers and their children at a time of crisis.”

Amanda Purdie, Head of Strategy at Amma Birth Companions, said: 

 

“Every birthing person should have access to safe, suitable housing, proper nutrition, and a nurturing environment in which to rest. Sadly, the Mears mother and baby unit denies women these basic liberties.

These mothers are already subjected to the extreme stress of a cruel and inhumane asylum process. They now have the added challenge of trying to build a better life for their family in an unsafe, unwelcoming, and undignified environment—the consequences of which are profound for both parent and child.

We urgently call upon Mears and the Home Office to stop putting profits over people. More must be done to protect the dignity and wellbeing of every mother and child seeking safety in the UK.” 

Traci Kirkland, Head of Charity at Govan Community Project, said:

“We are extremely concerned about the impact this sort of institutional accommodation has on children and mothers. Setting aside the space issues, families thrive in communities, not institutions. This style of isolated accommodation is disempowering and not what the communities of Glasgow wish to see for any parents in our city. 

 

Selina Hales, Founder and CEO of Refuweegee, said:

“Yet further evidence in an already long list of failings from asylum housing. There is no excuse for anyone being housed in conditions like those found in the mother and baby unit. It is not first time that accommodation deemed unfit for one is then repurposed and used for those seeking safety in our city. We can only hope that this action will mean it is the last.”

 

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About the Roof Coalition

The Roof Coalition, (formerly Stop Lock Change Evictions), was established in 2018 as part of the battle against SERCO’s lock change evictions. It is comprised of charities, lawyers, and grassroots organisations dedicated to upholding the housing rights of people seeking asylum in Scotland and beyond. 

For more information about the #FreedomToCrawl campaign, visit www.freedomtocrawl.org