EDINBURGH (Reuters) – Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, on a four day trip to boost his party’s fortunes in Scotland, will meet asylum seekers in Glasgow on Wednesday amid a row about the treatment of would-be immigrants.
His trip comes after polls suggested Labour support in Scotland has been slipping since its encouraging performance in last year’s UK-wide election.
Corbyn, who has steered Labour to the left, is calling for Britain to roll back its “dangerous and failed” policy of contracting private firms like Serco, G4S and Capita to deliver and manage public services in healthcare, transport and detention centres.
The row over immigrants blew up after Serco announced a plan to change the locks on the homes of asylum seekers whose applications had been refused.
Following protests and campaigns by refugee charities, the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Labour, Serco announced a “pause” in the plan earlier this month.
“Private firms have no business profiting from the detention of refugees and asylum seekers and we will end the ugly and discredited system of private firms running immigration detention centres,” Corbyn will say, according to a statement.
With Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives deeply divided and struggling to deliver Brexit in time for a March 2019 deadline, there are few points to separate the leading parties in opinion polls.
On Monday, the British government announced it had taken over the running of a major prison in England from G4S after it had become unmanageable, the latest in a string of failed private sector projects to run public services.
“Labour will end this shameful situation and close Yarl’s Wood and Brook House detention centres, investing the money spent on locking people up on services that support survivors of modern slavery, human trafficking and domestic violence instead,” Corbyn will say.
A spokesman for Serco declined to comment.
Yarl’s Wood and Brook House in southern England are run by Serco and G4S respectively, where immigrants and asylum seekers are detained. Brook House, at Gatwick airport was at the centre of an abuse scandal earlier this year.
Labour policies like nationalising the rail and water industries helped the party deny the pro-privatisation Conservatives a majority government in the 2017 election.
Reporting by Elisabeth O’Leary; editing by Stephen Addison