I plan to raise these issues in Parliament again and call for a Home office enquiry https://t.co/dtWEVXuZrT— Alex Cunningham (@ACunninghamMP) May 24, 2016
Back in January I helped The Times expose racial abuse of asylum seekers whose landlords in the north east of England — the security company G4S and its subcontractor Jomast — had painted their front doors a distinctive red.
People who had fled their home countries to escape persecution reported having dog excrement pushed through their letterboxes and graffiti daubed on their doors, because their homes were so easy to locate.
There followed multiple media reports in the UK and abroad, parliamentary scrutiny and criticism, and the companies promised to repaint the offending doors swiftly.
Juliet Halstead, head of housing at G4S, told the Teesside press on 25 January, that repainting would be carried out “as soon as possible” in both Middlesbrough and Stockton.
On Monday we revealed that, regardless of all that, asylum seekers were still being targeted by racists, thanks to their red doors. One man living in Stockton on Teesside had emailed a volunteer worker in the early hours of last Friday morning to report that racists were banging on his door at 3.40AM: “I am so worried about this issue, it’s awful, because we fled from Isis to seek sanctuary here, not to face racism. The Jomast door is still painted a red colour,” he said.
On Monday evening, I sent questions to G4S to ask why they had not repainted this man’s red door in January when the connection between red doors and racist assaults and abuse could not have been made clearer. I asked why they had defied instructions from Home Office minister James Brokenshire on 20 January to repaint red doors on Jomast properties, and further instructions from Brokenshire on 9 February after a Home Office audit of Jomast properties. Had they forgotten what he said?
“One of the clear recommendations that came from our audit is that housing providers should ensure that properties used to accommodate asylum seekers cannot be easily identified either as a deliberate policy or inadvertently.”
I also asked G4S why their executive John Whitwam and Jomast owner Stuart Monk had misled the Home Affairs committee on 26 January by pledging to repaint the red doors properties in “two weeks” [video here: 5.31pm to 5.33pm].
Yesterday I received the following response from G4S.
“We committed in January to repainting the doors of our asylum properties in Middlesbrough. This has been done. Beyond that we have repainted those doors in Stockton and Newcastle necessary to ensure that doors in those areas have a range of colours. We have also looked across our estate to confirm that asylum seekers are not identifiable by their door colour.”
How thorough was that look across their estate? Here is a neglected G4S house in West Yorkshire which I complained about to G4S on 19 April this year:
The G4S statement went on: “Since the issue raised by The Times in January, we have received one complaint about door colour attracting anti-social behaviour. However, should any of our service users feel that their door identifies them in a way which puts them or their family at risk, we will commit to repaint their door promptly and if necessary arrange relocation.”
I also asked G4S yesterday if they would “apologise to the asylum seekers and refugees concerned in so far as the failure to repaint the red doors contributed to the targeting of the asylum seekers’ home.”
I’m still waiting for a response to that.
Meanwhile, Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North, prepares to raise the matter in Parliament. Again.