Victory for orphan given less than 10 days to quit Serco flat

A schoolboy orphan who was given less than 10-days notice to quit a flat managed by a company which looks after accommodation for asylum seekers will keep his home.

Giorgi Kakava, 10, and his grandmother, Ketino Baikhadze, have been offered a permanent tenancy with North Glasgow Housing Association, known as ng homes, which owns the property.

The association has reached agreement with public service provider Serco, which manages accommodation on behalf of the UK Government, after the family were granted leave to remain in the UK for 30 months.

This means that Giorgi and his 59-year-old grandmother, his legal guardian, are no longer considered asylum seekers and received a letter from the Home Office to say they had until September 14 to vacate the property.

Giorgi Kakava
Rev Brian Casey, Right Rev Susan Brown, Giorgi Kakava and his grandmother Ketino Baikhadze.

The letter, which said that Mrs Baikhadze no longer qualified for support under Section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, was dated August 31 but she only received it on Wednesday. (Sep5)

Paul Sweeney, MP for Glasgow North East and Bob Doris, MSP for Maryhill and Springburn, immediately urged ng homes to take the family on as tenants so they would not be made homeless.

A spokesman said: “ng homes is aware of this family’s circumstances and wants to assist in any way we can.

“We are delighted to offer a permanent tenancy to the family and we are also working very closely with other agencies.

“A dedicated member of our Housing Services team will visit the family and as well as providing a permanent home, we will provide them with all the necessary support to make sure they can stay safe and secure in North Glasgow.”

Ng homes will provide Mrs Baikhadze, who is now eligible for employment, with welfare rights advice to ensure she gets any support she needs

Sopio Baikhadze
Mother and son - Sopio and Giorgi.

The news was welcomed by Rev Brian Casey, minister of Springburn Parish Church, who started a petition to prevent Giorgi being deported to his birth country of Georgia.

“Giorgi and his gran were very confused, upset and anxious when they were told they had to leave their home,” he said.

“They have a lot of history there and it is where Giorgi’s mum, Sopio, died in February.

“There are no guarantees that they would find somewhere else to live close by and moving to another part of Glasgow would disrupt Giorgi’s education and home life.

“So I am absolutely over the moon that ng homes have joined us to try and give him a childhood by allowing him to stay in his home, surrounded by things that remind him of his mum.”

Springburn is a Priority Areas Parish Church.

Death

Giorgi was just three when he and his mother fled Georgia, a former Soviet republic, and sought asylum in Glasgow because his life was allegedly threatened by people his late father is said to have owed money to.

She was in the process of appealing a Home Office decision to deny her and her son asylum when she died, plunging his future into doubt.

Ketino Baikhadze
Ketino Baikhadze and her grandson, Giorgi,

Mr Casey conducted Sopio’s funeral, along with Father John McGrath, parish priest of St Aloysius Church in Springburn, and vowed to do what he could to stop Giorgi being deported.

Nearly 90,000 people have signed the petition because they recognise it would not be in the best interests of a naturalised Scottish boy if he was sent to a country that is completely foreign to him.

Compassion

Mr Sweeney said he was very pleased that the threat of eviction has been lifted because the last year of Giorgi’s life has been one of “torment, uncertainty and tragedy”.

“An application for discretionary leave to remain has been granted for Giorgi and his gran which means they no longer qualified for accommodation provided by Serco,” he added.

“They had been served with an eviction notice so I contacted the landlord of the property, North Glasgow Housing Association (ng homes) and asked them if they could be provided with a permanent tenancy.

“They have agreed that is the right thing to do and have taken the flat off the Serco list and have issued them with a permanent tenancy.”

Mr Sweeney said the campaign started by Mr Casey to ensure that Giorgi and his gran are given permission to stay in the UK on a permanent basis will continue.

Sopio's tree
A tree has been planted outside Springburn Parish Church in Sopio's memory and that of other local mothers who have died.

He added that the situation showed that the UK Government’s asylum seeker housing policy is flawed and ng homes has demonstrated what can be achieved when compassion and common sense is applied.

Mr Doris said: “I am pleased that Serco have decided to show flexibility and work with ng homes to support Giorgi and his gran to stay in the family home.

“Serco were constructive when I, and others, made representations to them on behalf of the family.

“However, our representations should never have been necessary.

“A bit of forward planning, common sense and compassion could have avoided Giorgi and his gran a lot of worry and anguish.

“Serco have to learn from this and ensure they change their practice.

“I commend ng homes on how speedily and effectively they moved to support my constituents.”

Celtic fan Giorgi was given a tour of Celtic Park in Glasgow yesterday, organised by Springburn councillor Martin McElry and Father McGrath.

Paul Sweney Somer Areeb
L-R Bob Doris MP. Somer, Areeb and Paul Sweeney MP.

Mr Sweeney and Mr Doris are also supporting the campaign to prevent Somer and Areeb Umeed from being deported from Glasgow to Pakistan where they will be persecuted for their Christian faith.

It is spearheaded by Rev Linda Pollock, minister of Possilpark Parish Church who set up a petition that has been signed by more than 85,000 people so far.

Church of Scotland congregations the length and breadth of the country are actively working to support asylum seekers and refugees.