John Grayson https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/7598/all cached version 04/05/2018 19:26:20 en Mothers and children unlawfully housed in Sheffield B&Bs for years https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson-violet-dickenson/mothers-and-children-unlawfully-housed-in-shef <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Women and young children routinely placed in shared hostels with vulnerable homeless men.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/EarlMarshall_Guest_House.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Earl Marshall Guest House"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/EarlMarshall_Guest_House.JPG" alt="" title="Earl Marshall Guest House" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Earl Marshall Guest House (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>Mothers with young children have spent months on end in Bed &amp; Breakfast accommodation in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, living alongside vulnerable homeless single men. Women forced to share bathrooms and kitchens with men they don’t know tell us they’ve faced intimidation and racist abuse. They say they fear for themselves and their children.</p><p> Councils are obliged by law to avoid placing pregnant women or families with children in B&amp;Bs except as a last resort, and then for <a href="https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/homelessness/rules/emergency_housing_if_you_are_homeless">no longer than six weeks</a>. But we at South Yorkshire Migration &amp; Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG) know of women and children housed unlawfully in potentially dangerous B&amp;B accommodation for months, and some for years.</p> <p>At a B&amp;B on Grimesthorpe Road, Sheffield, mothers with children have been housed alongside vulnerable homeless single men.</p> <p>Called Earl Marshall Guest House, the B&amp;B is in Burngreave, to the north of the city, which has housed incoming migrants, workers in the steel industry, over the last sixty years, people from Yemen, Kurdistan, Pakistan. And in recent years from Central and Eastern Europe. The steel industry has almost disappeared and Burngreave, with its streets of redbrick terraced housing, is one of Sheffield’s poorest districts. </p> <p>We first met Esther at the Earl Marshall with her young daughter one sunny September afternoon in 2017. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Buggy_Esther_room.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Esther’s room"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Buggy_Esther_room.JPG" alt="" title="Esther’s room" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="240" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Esther's room (John Grayson)</span></span></span>For two months, mother and daughter, aged six, had shared one small cramped room, with bunkbeds and hardly any storage space. “Come in, there’s not much room in here to sit down,” Esther said. “I have to keep the buggy in here. It’s not safe to leave it by the front door.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Families with more children had bigger rooms, but hers was normal for a mother and child, Esther said. “I have our food in here, I can’t store it in the kitchen, there are no locked cupboards and about 20 people use that kitchen. There is only one cooker in there.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Esther, a survivor of trafficking from West Africa, said she didn’t feel safe at the B&amp;B. “I am frightened for my daughter,” she told us. “The man next door is very noisy, bangs on the wall at night — I think he uses drugs in there.” </p> <p>She said: “The worst thing is having to queue for toilets and showers with the men, it is not right for my little girl.”</p> <p>Her only income was the £20 a week she received from Sheffield social services for her daughter. “My social worker gives me vouchers for the food bank and she got them to provide a fridge in my room,” she said.<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/EarlMarshallkitchen_twenty_people.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A kitchen for 20"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/EarlMarshallkitchen_twenty_people.JPG" alt="" title="A kitchen for 20" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" width="240" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A kitchen for 20 people (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Storeroom_bedroom.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Storeroom_bedroom.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" width="240" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The ‘box room’ (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>Esther worried about other children in the house. Were they getting enough to eat? “They don’t serve breakfast unless you ask the woman,” she said. “Then it is never before eight, which means the children here who go to school have to eat cereals and milk bought by parents.” </p> <p>In a corridor we met an agitated woman dressed only in her nightie, who said excitedly: “I will be leaving soon, I will be moving out.” She opened her door to a small box-room with little natural light on a sunny afternoon, one tiny window obscured by a curtain. She said that’s where she was living.</p> <p>Other women forced to spend time at the Earl Marshall also feared for their children’s safety.</p> <p>Carol lived there for a year from February 2015. Like Esther she had survived trafficking from West Africa, had been turned down for asylum and so lost her financial support from the National Asylum Support Service.</p><p>“I was sharing a single bed with my daughter Sophie, no money and living with friends,” she told us. “They asked us to leave, and we went to the council as homeless.”&nbsp;</p> <p>We asked Carol what she felt when she first arrived at the Earl Marshall. “I hated it and did not want to stay,” Carol said, “but Sophie saw the bunk beds, and after months of sharing a small bed with me, thought it was great.”</p> <p>Carol told us: “It was worse at weekends. There were drunken men outside and inside, amongst the guests of the B&amp;B as well as in our part. An American man who ended up in our part on a very busy weekend told me ‘This place is not safe for the kids. I think it is the cheapest place in Sheffield.’</p> <p>“On those weekends all the mothers would gather with our children in the biggest of our rooms and stay there all weekend, making sure there was one of us with the children wherever they were.</p> <p>“While I was at the Earl Marshall there was a Chinese woman with a baby, and a woman from Cameroon with her child. She hated it and went back to Cameroon. Single refugee women came but only stayed one or two nights. There was a man with five children, all in the same room.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <h2>“No Recourse to Public Funds”</h2> <p>All three refugee families we spoke to from the Earl Marshall had found themselves labelled “No recourse to public funds”. In a letter to us in May 2016 the leader of Sheffield Council, Cllr. Julie Dore, explained what that means.</p> <p>“Public funds are defined and include all benefits and homelessness help from the Housing Department. This means that the Local Authority’s Housing department cannot provide accommodation under the housing laws.” </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Showers_EarlMarshall_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Showers at Earl Marshall"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Showers_EarlMarshall_0.JPG" alt="" title="Showers at Earl Marshall" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" width="240" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Showers at Earl Marshall</span></span></span>But, she added, “Children’s Social Care may still owe a duty to the children.”</p> <p>This comes under the Children Act 1989 (Section 17), Children in Need, for whom money that is provided is not considered to be public funds.</p><p> Dore went on: “We explore a number of options with such families including enabling them to return to their home country if they wish and it is safe to do so.” </p> <p>These Sheffield families receive only the equivalent of UK Child Benefit (around £20 for the first child). For the mothers, social workers gave Carol and Esther vouchers to take to the local food bank, and £5 each week to pay their Earl Marshall laundry bills. </p> <p>“They treat us bad,” said Carol. “Sometimes the bedclothes and washing were not collected on time, I had to change the beds and take the washing myself, it was difficult with a schoolchild to keep her clean. Breakfast was never till eight o’clock, too late for my child to get to school.”</p> <p>Dinah spent five months in the Earl Marshall with her daughter Adele who was six years old. She told us: “They would only wash bedclothes and school uniform in there, other things I washed by hand.”</p> <p>Waiting for toilets and showers were the worst times for the families. Carol said some of the men “asked us for money and called us racist names. Every time we had to wait, then we had to clean the toilet, so we could use it.”</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Waiting for toilets and showers were the worst times. The men asked for money and called us racist names.</p> <p>Dinah told us: “The showers were locked from 8pm to 9am. Waiting in the queue we heard screaming and banging doors and a naked man came in and joined the queue. I decided to buy a potty for our room so that we felt safe.”</p> <p>When she spoke to us a few weeks ago Dinah had been in the UK asylum system since 2001, 17 years. “I tried to become a student, but someone stole my passport and took my money. I was in a bad abusive relationship and ended up in a house rented by my church. They wanted to buy another place and evicted me and Adele, then we ended up in the Earl Marshall.</p> <p>“Adele had chicken pox when they told us we had to go to the Earl Marshall and I thought she would spread it to the other children. They told me ‘You can either go in there, or we will take Adele into care’.”</p> <p>Dinah remembered two Chinese women with two children each, girls and boys, in the Earl Marshall. “A student came with her small baby, she decided to leave the country. There was a lady, she was out of her mind, she kept saying, ‘I can hear the voice of my boyfriend’, over and over again.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <h2>Direct action</h2> <p>Earl Marshall managers spotted us taking photographs from outside the B&amp;B in September 2017. Esther asked us not to identify her in anything we reported. “I don’t want them to make me homeless again,” she said. And so it was November before we wrote to the council setting out the dangerous situation for children in the B&amp;B.</p> <p>We demanded that the council immediately rehouse any families with children remaining in the Earl Marshall and declare that it would never again be used as emergency accommodation for children.</p> <p>The secretary to the leader of the council replied on 22 November 2017.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I have forwarded on all of your emails regarding Earl Marshall B&amp;B to both Councillors Drayton and McDonald and asked them to contact you, as soon as possible.”</p> <p>Then…nothing (later they claimed not to have received our email). So, we decided on a more direct approach.</p><p>On 7 February 2018, SYMAAG members went along to a Sheffield City Council meeting. We presented a petition, asked questions and stated our demands:</p><ul><li><span> </span>End the use of the Earl Marshall guest house for homeless refugee children;</li><li><span> </span>Provide equal treatment for homeless refugee children to that given to other homeless children in Sheffield.</li><li>In response to our testimony about the long periods families spent in B&amp;Bs, Cllr. Jackie Drayton, chair of the Children, Young People and Families committee, said, “These were asylum seeker families who we could not help in other ways because they had no resource to public funds.”</li><li>Later, on 20 February 2018, we received an email from the chair of housing, Cllr. Jayne Dunn. She admitted the council’s department for children, young people and families (CYPF, more commonly known as social services) had two families accommodated in the Earl Marshall.</li></ul> <p>She said: “Both families have no recourse to public funds. One family has been there since 9th September 2016, and one family since 28th January 2016, just over 2 years. The families are supported by CYPF. In any case B+B is not a good option for families for long periods, and I have offered to help source alternative accommodation if this is appropriate for both families.”</p><p class="mag-quote-right">One councillor later admitted that the B&amp;B was unsuitable for the families</p> <p>Then Carol, who had asked a question at the council meeting in February, received a reply to our petition from Cllr. Drayton, chair of the CYPF committee who placed the families in the Earl Marshall.&nbsp;</p> <p>The letter, dated Dated 8 March 2018, contained no apology for the year Carol and Sophie had spent in the Earl Marshall. Cllr. Drayton said that, “Children’s services do not support bed and breakfast accommodation for families and work to prevent this whenever possible.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/council_letter12 months.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Cllr. Jackie Drayton concedes that families have been housed in B&amp;Bs for more than 12 months (letter, 8 March 2018)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/council_letter12 months.JPG" alt="" title="Cllr. Jackie Drayton concedes that families have been housed in B&amp;Bs for more than 12 months (letter, 8 March 2018)" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cllr. Jackie Drayton concedes: families have been housed in B&Bs for more than 12 months (letter, 8 March 2018)</span></span></span></p><p>The letter admitted “some cases” in bed and breakfast “for over twelve months” were “unacceptable” and a review of the cases was underway. Any families in bed and breakfast for more than six weeks would have reports issued to “monitor” them. There was no commitment to stop using the Earl Marshall. “We will assess the concerns raised about the particular institution identified in the petition.”</p> <h2>Sheffield, City of Sanctuary, and the homeless</h2> <p>Lately, we spoke to Barry, a volunteer in mental health campaigning groups in Sheffield. He told us, “Over the past twenty years I have known of many people when they are discharged from NHS care, and find themselves homeless, who have been put in the Earl Marshall by Social Services.”</p><p><span class="mag-quote-right">They made me live in the same small bedroom with him, for three months.</span></p> <p>Mary is an elderly Anglican minister and refugee from Southern Africa, who runs an art and handicraft project for women refugees in Sheffield. She found herself in the Earl Marshall in 2015, with her adult autistic son.</p> <p>“There was a serious fire in our council house and the Council had to find somewhere for us to live whilst it was repaired,” she told us. “They wanted to place my adult son, who is autistic, in the Earl Marshall. I said he would not cope in there without me. They refused to budge, so I went there with him. They made me live in the same small bedroom with him, for three months.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><h2>Earl Marshall’s response</h2> <p>We contacted the Earl Marshall on 22 March and asked for a response to the refugee families’ specific allegations and concerns raised in this article. </p><p>Nada Mortin, director of Earl Marshall Guest House Ltd, replied on 26 March with the following statement:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p>Firstly, we refuse to comment on allegations of this nature as a matter of principle. We feel such comments may misrepresent the nature of our work or of the Hostel itself, which seeks to provide quality accommodation to homeless and vulnerable people in the community.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>We would emphasise and reiterate that at all times we have complied with all regulations and policies issued by Sheffield City Council from time to time together with all regulatory bodies applicable to our sector and at no time have any allegations been received by the Hostel, whether from the council or any resident or former resident, in connection with the operation of the Hostel. Residents have always been provided with the requisite facilities and access to the same at appropriate times.</p></blockquote><p>We contacted Ms Mortin again on 28 March and 4 April, again inviting her response to the families’ particular concerns about breakfast, shower, kitchen and laundry arrangements. We await her reply.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>All names of refugees and refugee children, and interviewees, have been changed.</em></p><p><em>Edited by Clare Sambrook &amp; Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi for&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight">Shine A Light</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/john-grayson-violet-dickenson/children-made-homeless-by-migration-rules">UK migration rules make children homeless</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/theresa-may-s-hostile-immigration-regime-destroys-another-british-family">Theresa May’s hostile immigration regime destroys another family</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/pregnant-woman-g4s-asylum-housing">‘Please get me moved from here!’ Pregnant woman in G4S asylum housing</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/theresa-may-s-tough-line-on-immigration-punishes-br">Theresa May’s tough line on immigration punishes British children</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/how-do-we-get-out-if-there-s-fire-in-yorkshire-g4s-tenants-live">‘How do we get out if there’s a fire?’ In Yorkshire, G4S tenants live in fear </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/gareth-mitchell/high-court-blasts-outrageous-assault-by-tascor-staff-on-tort">High Court blasts ‘outrageous’ assault by Tascor staff on torture survivor</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/behave-or-get-deported-says-g4s">Behave or get deported, says G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/people-come-in-here-normal-but-they-get-ill-protesting-against-">‘People come in here normal, but they get ill.’ Protesting against deaths at a UK migrant jail</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/fail-fail-and-have-another-government-contract">Fail, fail, and have another government contract</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/five-years-of-denial-uk-government-s-reckless-pursuit-of-punitive-asylum-">Five years of denial: the UK government’s reckless pursuit of a punitive asylum policy — never mind the evidence of harm</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight 50.50 Shine A Light John Grayson Violet Dickenson Thu, 05 Apr 2018 07:30:35 +0000 Violet Dickenson and John Grayson 117007 at https://www.opendemocracy.net UK migration rules make children homeless https://www.opendemocracy.net/john-grayson-violet-dickenson/children-made-homeless-by-migration-rules <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Councils are forcing children into homelessness and destitution simply because of their parents’ migration status.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/A_TwoAmysfourchildren_Alara_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Alara Bed &amp; Breakfast room shared by Amy’s family of five (John Grayson)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/A_TwoAmysfourchildren_Alara_0.jpg" alt="" title="Alara Bed &amp; Breakfast room shared by Amy’s family of five (John Grayson)" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alara Bed & Breakfast room shared by Amy’s family of five (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>For two years we have been investigating how Sheffield treats refugee families who have no recourse to public funds. Our latest article exposes the dire state of temporary housing for mothers with young children, forced to share hostels with vulnerable homeless men. </p> <p>Here we provide some context to the situation.</p> <p>Across the UK councils are forcing children into homelessness and destitution simply because of the migration status of their parents. This problem is compounded by the housing crisis, which is hurting the poorest most.</p><p>Sheffield City Council, the scene of our work, placed 43 homeless families with 97 children in bed and breakfast accommodation in the 11 months to 30 November 2017, according to an FOI we submitted. Some of them had been placed in B&amp;Bs more than once, and some for many weeks. Of the 97 children, 40 were under five years old.</p> <p>In April 2016, we visited a mother and four children under five years (two year old twins, a three year old and a five year old). They’d been housed in the Alara Bed and Breakfast hotel in Hillsborough, Sheffield.</p> <p>We climbed a steep flight of stairs to be greeted by Amy, with her youngest child in her arms. “This is it,” Amy said, “We stay in here most of the time. The children cannot play here or anywhere inside.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The council had put them in the Alara, in one room on the first floor, nearly 18 months before. Amy’s social worker had told her that she and her children didn’t qualify for anything better because they have ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ status, although three of Amy’s four children were British citizens.&nbsp; </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Sink_unit_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Here Amy washes dishes and her children (John Grayson)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Sink_unit_0.JPG" alt="" title="Here Amy washes dishes and her children (John Grayson)" width="460" height="614" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Here Amy washes dishes and her children (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>Amy told us: “We have breakfast which is OK, but then we have to go to food banks or get cheap takeaways. I cannot cook in here at all.” Amy hoped we might be able to get her moved.</p> <p>She had been frightened to complain to anyone but her social worker. “They told me I would have to make another claim to stay in the UK in October this year, and I don’t want to be deported,” she said.</p> <p>Amy showed us the damp and dirty walls near the beds she shared with her children. The rest of the place, carpets, toilets, showers are really nice and clean”.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">She was frightened to complain, fearing she would be deported</p> <p>The room had a small sink that Amy used for washing the children and washing the dishes. The nearest toilets and showers were across the landing of a steep flight of stairs, shared with other residents. This presented a daily hazard for Amy’s toddlers. “I worry every day when I take the children to the toilet. The manager won’t provide any child gates — he says they will stop escape if there is a fire.”</p> <p>We protested to the council. Sheffield’s Children Young People &amp; Families department (social services) told us that the council’s Private Housing Standards department “had recommended the Alara”. </p><p>But after the standards department sent a two-person inspection team to the Alara, social services said: “We consider that the accommodation is not suitable for either family.” That was April.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Unguarded_stairs_toilets_showers.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Unguarded stairs (John Grayson)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Unguarded_stairs_toilets_showers.JPG" alt="" title="Unguarded stairs (John Grayson)" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Unguarded stairs (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>We advised Amy and her children not to move to different B&amp;B accommodation, but to hold out for something suitable. The council offered a city centre “family room” in a budget hotel — again just one room. We maintained that the council should provide temporary housing suitable for Amy and her four children.</p> <p>In May the leader of Sheffield City Council Cllr. Julie Dore intervened, saying we should “assist this family by encouraging them to move to the hotel we have organised for them.”</p> <p>She wrote to us: “I am very unhappy we now have a family with small children residing somewhere that has been deemed unsafe for them.”</p> <p>Eventually, faced with potential legal action on the basis of the children’s human rights, the council agreed to offer Amy a standard council house on a temporary basis.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <h2>A place to call home</h2><p><a href="http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/documents/s29089/Homelessness%20Prevention%20Strategy%203.pdf">Seventy per cent</a>&nbsp;of Sheffield’s homeless people in temporary accommodation are single men or childless couples, that’s almost three times the national average of 26 per cent.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson-violet-dickenson/mothers-and-children-unlawfully-housed-in-shef">Our investigations</a> suggest that a small but growing number of homeless children in families in Sheffield have no recourse to public funds. This is a growing problem across the UK affecting families in cities like Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham.</p> <p>In late 2015,&nbsp;Hackney Community Law Centre and Hackney Migrant Centre produced “<a href="http://www.hackneymigrantcentre.org.uk/sites/hackneymigrantcentre.org.uk/files/A%20Place%20To%20Call%20Home%20-%20Embargoed%20Interactive%20Version_0.pdf">A place to call home</a>: a report into the standard of housing provided to children in need in London”. </p><p>FOI requests revealed that six London local authorities supported 1,570 “Section 17” families or children between them during the last six months of 2014. </p><p>In August 2017&nbsp;<a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/i-felt-like-my-life-was-being-taken-away-from-me-a7884576.html"><em>The Independent</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em>reported that Haringey local authority “was currently supporting 71 households with no recourse to public funds, including 151 children.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <h2><span>Councils can defy the government</span></h2> <p>There is resistance. In December 2017 the Labour mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson unveiled a £250,000 homeless facility called Labre House in the city centre. In a break with national policy, he said: “The centre will also help failed asylum seekers who the Government has said have ‘no recourse to public funds’.”</p> <p>Our observations chime with the Hackney findings that: “Most B&amp;B-style accommodation is inappropriate. Not only does it frequently fail to adequately meet the needs of the family but, in some situations, it can pose a positive danger.”</p> <p>We are campaigning to make sure in Sheffield, the UK’s first City of Sanctuary, the council defends the safety of refugee children, whatever their status.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span>All names of refugees and refugee children, and interviewees, have been changed.</span></p> <p><em>Edited by Clare Sambrook &amp; Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi for&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight">Shine A Light</a>.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson-violet-dickenson/mothers-and-children-unlawfully-housed-in-shef">Mothers and children unlawfully housed in Sheffield B&amp;Bs for years</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/theresa-may-s-tough-line-on-immigration-punishes-br">Theresa May’s tough line on immigration punishes British children</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/how-do-we-get-out-if-there-s-fire-in-yorkshire-g4s-tenants-live">‘How do we get out if there’s a fire?’ In Yorkshire, G4S tenants live in fear </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/theresa-may-s-hostile-immigration-regime-destroys-another-british-family">Theresa May’s hostile immigration regime destroys another family</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/pregnant-woman-g4s-asylum-housing">‘Please get me moved from here!’ Pregnant woman in G4S asylum housing</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/behave-or-get-deported-says-g4s">Behave or get deported, says G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/fail-fail-and-have-another-government-contract">Fail, fail, and have another government contract</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight Shine A Light John Grayson Violet Dickenson Thu, 05 Apr 2018 06:52:29 +0000 Violet Dickenson and John Grayson 117032 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘Please get me moved from here!’ Pregnant woman in G4S asylum housing https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/pregnant-woman-g4s-asylum-housing <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Refugee and asylum seeking women are shockingly over-represented in the records of UK maternal deaths. Yet pregnant women and infants continue to be placed in dangerous housing.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/RearwindowyardSharonshouse.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Rear window of Sharon&#039;s G4S asylum home"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/RearwindowyardSharonshouse.JPG" alt="" title="Rear window of Sharon&#039;s G4S asylum home" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rear window of Sharon’s G4S asylum home (all images by John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>One showery September morning I stood outside a large red brick house, just off the town centre in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.</p> <p>I’d been told that the hostel was being used by the security company G4S as accommodation for pregnant women asylum seekers, and lone mothers with babies. One of the growing number of lone mother and refugee children hostels <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/the-shame-of-asylum-housing-of-child-refugees-in-the-uk/">in the UK’s asylum market</a>.</p> <p>Old carpets had been dumped in the hostel’s back yard, a blocked drain overflowed. It didn’t seem a safe place for children to play.</p> <h2>Leaky ceilings and filthy carpets</h2> <p>“Come and see, carpet is too dirty for my baby!” Rita shows me to her room, introduces me to her fourteen month old son. Friends had provided a play-mat to cover the filthy carpet.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/BackyardSharonsHouseplay.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Back yard, Sharon’s home"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/BackyardSharonsHouseplay.JPG" alt="" title="Back yard, Sharon’s home" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Safe for toddlers? Back yard, Sharon’s home</span></span></span>Rita and her housemate Janet were showing me round the hostel. In the kitchen Janet said: “This kitchen is the only room we can meet and let the children play.” She showed me damp patches on the kitchen ceiling where water had leaked from the bathroom above.</p> <p>We looked in on the lounge. “We can’t use this room now, they put old beds in there,” Janet said. It was packed with beds and children’s buggies. “We have nowhere else to put them, the stairs are steep.”</p> <p>A local agency who work with women survivors of trafficking had asked me to take a look at the hostel. They’d protested to G4S on behalf of a client from West Africa, a heavily pregnant woman who had been placed in a room at the top of the house, up three flights of stairs.</p><p><span>An agency worker told me: “Sharon says the place is very dirty and that she is stranded at the top of the house. G4S are simply not doing anything about her.</span><span>” </span></p><p><span>I&nbsp;</span>climbed up the stairs to Sharon’s room. She was sitting on her bed. I apologised for visiting on my own. (Usually I visit all-women accommodation alongside a female colleague). “That’s OK, please get me moved from here, I have never unpacked,” Sharon said. “I must move. I am in constant pain, in both my knees. I cannot take painkillers, for the baby.”</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/StaircarpetcloseupSharonshouse.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Dirty staircase, Rose’s home"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/StaircarpetcloseupSharonshouse.JPG" alt="" title="Dirty staircase, Rose’s home" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dirty staircase, Rose’s home</span></span></span>I recognised Sharon. She had been in a G4S house in Barnsley. I had been told that earlier in her pregnancy she had been in an attic room there and had fallen down the stairs. “They have said I will maybe have a C-section. I could not carry my baby up all those stairs. I stay in bed most of the time,” she said.</p> <p>The carpets along the corridors and the stair carpets were filthy. G4S display a management sheet in their houses to record all inspections, cleaning and work. The sheet showed the hostel communal areas had last been cleaned in early July, almost three months previously.</p> <p>An official resident list named twelve people, six of them apparently small children under three years. There was a baby of fifteen months and a toddler of two and a half. The record was incomplete: Sharon and some others were not listed.</p> <h2>Punished for complaining</h2> <p>The previous week I had been to see Rose, in another G4S house, in Sheffield. Rose, also from West Africa, is a survivor of trafficking. In this house too the corridor and stair carpets were dirty. The last recorded clean had been over three months ago. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Floorlevelkichencupboard_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Kitchen cupboard in Rose’s home"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Floorlevelkichencupboard_0.JPG" alt="" title="Kitchen cupboard in Rose’s home" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kitchen cupboard in Rose’s home </span></span></span></p><p>“I can’t walk in bare feet outside my room, the soles of my slippers are dirty.” Rose said. She showed me her own very clean room, and the women’s clean bathrooms. “There are seven women here, just one dirty kitchen, I have to store pans and food in my room,” she said.</p> <p>Two women joined us in the kitchen. Tina opened a floor cupboard, exposing mould and dirt. “I never come down here at night, not for months, there are cockroaches when you put the lights on.”</p> <p>On the notice-board a Pest Control notice, dated February 2017, mentioned cockroaches, but there was no evidence of visits in the eight months since then. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/PestControlnoticecockroaches.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Pest control notice in Rose’s home"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/PestControlnoticecockroaches.JPG" alt="" title="Pest control notice in Rose’s home" width="460" height="202" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pest control notice in Rose’s home</span></span></span>On the same notice board was a threatening warning to the women, a controversial ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/behave-or-get-deported-says-g4s">behave or get deported’</a> notice.&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course G4S doesn’t have powers to deport tenants. I’d exposed this particular abuse of power <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/behave-or-get-deported-says-g4s">here back in April 2017</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>G4S claimed then that they were withdrawing the notices from the properties they managed.</p> <p>Rose told me: “I was forced to move a month ago from a really clean, nice house in Rotherham. I had friends and help there. I complained to G4S because a woman in my house was aggressive and shouted at me. She was really mentally ill, but she reminded me of the woman who trafficked me here. I was very frightened. G4S did not give her a place on her own —&nbsp;they moved me instead.” Rose seemed depressed, and became tearful as I left.</p> <h2>33 weeks pregnant, moved away from medical help</h2> <p>In Barnsley, on the 29th of September, I visited Lucy. She was 33 weeks pregnant, but that day she’d been moved from Barnsley town, near the hospital, to a shared house six miles away in a former mining village, on the outer edge of the borough. Lucy told me she had appointments with her midwife in Barnsley, and at the hospital, over the next few days.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/BEHAVE.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="G4S letter to tenants implying it has powers to deport"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/BEHAVE.JPG" alt="" title="G4S letter to tenants implying it has powers to deport" width="240" height="352" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>G4S implies it has powers to deport</span></span></span>“I cannot stay here, I could walk to the hospital when I was in Barnsley. The G4S driver said this place was six miles from Barnsley, he pleaded with the G4S welfare officer not to put me up here. I rang about a taxi to get to the hospital — he said it would cost £18 there and back.” </p> <p>On the 4th of October, Lucy asked me to post a letter from her midwife to G4S and the Home Office. The letter confirmed that Lucy was now 34 weeks pregnant and at high risk. It went on:</p> <p>“She is currently housed in accommodation in the attic 2 flights of very steep stairs. This is impacting greatly on her physical and mental wellbeing and will not be suitable for her baby when she delivers. She has also been moved away from this surgery which means a two bus journey for appointments.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">This is impacting greatly on her physical and mental wellbeing.</p> <p>Lucy told me: “Take my picture walking up these stairs, there are three flights of stairs.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Three weeks on, and 36 weeks pregnant Lucy is still waiting for a move.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Lucyalmostatherroom.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Lucy at top of double flight of stairs"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Lucyalmostatherroom.JPG" alt="" title="Lucy at top of double flight of stairs" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Midwife: “This is impacting greatly on her physical and mental wellbeing.” </span></span></span></p> <h2>Children’s early years, blighted</h2> <p>G4S, the largest security company in the world, won a slice of the £1.7 billion UK Home Office COMPASS (Commercial and Operating Managers Procuring Asylum Support) contract in June 2012 with two other security companies, Serco and Reliance. None of them had experience of housing. In the first months of the contract an Ethiopian woman whose <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-asylum-housing-evictions-begin-mother-and-baby-dumped-in-substandard-fl">twelve week old baby had a heart defect</a>, was transported from Bradford, forty miles away, to a tiny flat in Doncaster with no cooker, table or chair, and only a tiny sink to wash dishes and clothes. </p> <p>In November 2012, Angela, from West Africa, a survivor of trafficking, was transferred with her five month old baby son from her Leeds council flat to a slum property — by Cascade Housing, then a G4S subcontractor. The back yard was piled with rubbish. The place was infested with cockroaches and slugs. She did not dare put her baby on the floor. Angela <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/cockroach-in-baby-s-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s">found a cockroach in her baby’s bottle</a>.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Refugee and asylum seeking women make up 12% of maternal deaths, and 0.3% of the UK population.</p><p>In 2013 in evidence to a Children’s Society parliamentary investigation Dr Jenny Phillimore of Birmingham University pointed to “<a href="https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/tcs/Policy/asylum-inquiry/dr_jenny_phillimore.pdf">growing evidence of high maternal and infant mortality rates amongst asylum seekers and in asylum seeker dispersal areas</a> …Refugee and asylum seeking women make up 12% of all maternal deaths, and 0.3% of the population in the UK. The perinatal mortality rates in the City Hospital Trust area of Birmingham which at the time of data collection contained the highest concentration of asylum seeker housing in the city, is 12 per 1000 and rising compared with a national average of 7.6.” Dr Phillimore told the inquiry. “The City Hospital area of Birmingham has <a href="https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/tcs/Policy/asylum-inquiry/asylum_support_for_children_and_young_people_-_session_1.pdf">the highest infant mortality rate in Europe</a>, not just in the UK.”</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/bedsbuggiesSharonslounge.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Lounge packed with beds and buggies"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/bedsbuggiesSharonslounge.JPG" alt="" title="Lounge packed with beds and buggies" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Communal lounge in Sharon’s home</span></span></span></p><p>In 2013 the Refugee Council and the Maternity Alliance issued their report “<a href="https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/assets/0002/6402/When_Maternity_Doesn_t_Matter_-_Ref_Council__Maternity_Action_report_Feb2013.pdf">When Maternity Doesn’t Matter</a>: dispersing pregnant women seeking asylum”, based on interviews with twenty women. The researchers found:</p> <p>“Accommodation for pregnant women or those who had recently given birth was often inappropriate. There was rudimentary equipment for the baby but little effort was made to ensure adequate hygiene and sanitary facilities for new-borns. <a href="https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/assets/0002/6402/When_Maternity_Doesn_t_Matter_-_Ref_Council__Maternity_Action_report_Feb2013.pdf">Women often had to climb several flights of stairs to their rooms.</a>” </p> <p>In 2016, in Glasgow, in Serco’s COMPASS contract area, Red Cross researchers spoke to pregnant asylum seekers, and new mothers in their report <a href="http://www.redcross.org.uk/~/media/BritishRedCross/Documents/About%20us/A%20Healthy%20Start%20Report.pdf">“A Healthy Start?</a>”:</p> <p>“The state of carpets preoccupied several of the women with young babies who were about to crawl and spending quite a lot of time on the floor. Living in a dirty, cramped house meant that many of them were not feeling able to relax and feel at home. Several lived on upper floors, which caused difficulties when trying to carry a baby, a buggy and bags of shopping up several flights of stairs.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Accommodation for pregnant women or those who had recently given birth was often inappropriate.</p> <p>On 31 January 2017, the&nbsp; record of the private companies in asylum housing was laid bare in the latest UK Home Affairs Select Committee report on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmhaff/637/63702.htm">Asylum Accommodation,</a> which found “vulnerable people in unsafe accommodation … children living with infestations of mice, rats or bed bugs, lack of health care for pregnant women … inadequate support for victims of rape and torture.”</p> <h2>Making money from refugee babies and toddlers</h2> <p>I and my SYMAAG colleague Violet Dickenson and fellow campaigners have worked alongside brave whistleblower tenants over five years to expose conditions in the G4S <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/g4s-jomast-stockton-hostel-and-the-mother-and-baby-market/">mother and baby market</a> in asylum housing hostels. We exposed the G4S/Jomast Stockton hostel in 2012 where mothers described their rooms as “cells”, and a G4S Leeds hostel in 2015 in a grubby Victorian villa with&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/one-bath-for-12-women-and-11-babies-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">one bath for twelve women and eleven babies</a>.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/firetrap_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/firetrap_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>In June this year support workers told me about a G4S/ Cascade <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/how-do-we-get-out-if-there-s-fire-in-yorkshire-g4s-tenants-live">“fire trap hostel”</a> in Halifax with seventeen people, parents, a pregnant mother, new born babies and toddlers.</p> <p>G4S gets £8.42 per family member, per night, for these hostels (according to contract details revealed in a High Court judgement <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2017/200.html">here</a>). At that price, packing 17 people into the Halifax hostel brings the monthly take to around £4,300 of taxpayer’s money. The Doncaster hostel’s take would be around £3,000, every month. </p> <p>Jomast Accommodation Ltd., the G4S contractor in the North East of England, has extended the Stockton hostel, and developed similar hostels in Hartlepool and Newcastle. Smaller G4S hostels for lone mothers and babies have appeared in HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) in Doncaster, Derby, Barnsley and recently in Huddersfield.</p> <h2>The Hostile Environment</h2> <p>The UK Labour government by 2009 was <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/inside-yarls-wood-britains-shame-over-child-detainees-1674380.html">locking up 2000 children a year in detention centres, around half of them in the Serco managed Yarl’s Wood centre, near Bedford.</a> In April 2009 after an inspection of Yarl’s Wood <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/inside-yarls-wood-britains-shame-over-child-detainees-1674380.html">the Independent reported</a> that the Children’s Commissioner for England “found that seriously ill children were denied hospital treatment.... ….Children suffering from serious medical conditions and the mentally ill were routinely kept in detention despite guidelines stating clearly they should not be. …. An eight-month-old baby with asthma was neither released nor given an inhaler.”</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Underplaymat.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Under the play-mat"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Underplaymat.JPG" alt="" title="Under the play-mat" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Under the play-mat</span></span></span></p><p>In September 2009, Home Office Director of Criminality and Detention at the UK Border Agency and former Assistant Commissioner at the Met, <a href="https://uk.linkedin.com/in/dave-wood-6846056a">Dave Wood</a>, was called before the Home Affairs Committee. He described Yarl’s Wood as a “family friendly detention centre”. MPs asked him: “Why are children detained under the immigration system, because they have not done anything wrong, have they?” Wood explained that the lack of detention <a href="http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/c7436e4b-362a-45b4-a2c4-d0fe1086223c">“would act as a significant magnet and pull to families from abroad”.</a></p> <p>In May 2017, the government handed G4S <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/feb/09/g4s-welfare-support-families-children-deportation-gatwick">a new contract to lock up families</a> at the Tinsley House detention centre at Gatwick airport. BBC TV Panorama in early September 2017 <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/g4s_brook_house_immigration_removal_centre_undercover">exposed the violence and mistreatment of people</a> detained in G4S’s other Gatwick centre, Brook House.</p> <p>G4S, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/11/g4s-guards-at-youth-prison-alleged-to-have-falsified-reports-to-avoid-fines">exposed for its abuse of children</a> in children’s prisons, like Medway in Kent, which it managed, decided to sell (yes it can sell!), these youth prison contracts together with its children’s homes. G4S Children’s services as a whole had annual revenues of £40m from government and local authority contracts. In June 2017, G4S <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/06/03/g4s-sells-controversial-childrens-homes-business/">sold eighteen of its children’s homes to the Prospect Group for over £11m</a>.</p> <p>In December 2016, the government handed G4S, Serco and Clearsprings a two year extension to their asylum housing contracts, stretching them to September 2019. In August 2017, the Home Office started to advertise for <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/08/05/government-launches-tendering-process-troublesome-asylum-seekers/">new contracts from 2019.</a> The contracts are worth £600m of public money. </p> <p>Consider the companies’ record. Consider the very notion of international security companies being handed control over housing for pregnant women, for refugee babies and children. For years now we’ve listened to asylum tenants. We’ve witnessed conditions that blight children’s lives. Campaigners are working hard to stop international security companies like G4S and Serco getting contracts to house refugee babies and children.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Note: For the refugee women’s protection, names have been changed in this article.</em></p><p><em>All images by John Grayson. Edited by Clare Sambrook for&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/shinealight">Shine A Light</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><br /></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/how-do-we-get-out-if-there-s-fire-in-yorkshire-g4s-tenants-live">‘How do we get out if there’s a fire?’ In Yorkshire, G4S tenants live in fear </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/gareth-mitchell/high-court-blasts-outrageous-assault-by-tascor-staff-on-tort">High Court blasts ‘outrageous’ assault by Tascor staff on torture survivor</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/theresa-may-s-tough-line-on-immigration-punishes-br">Theresa May’s tough line on immigration punishes British children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/behave-or-get-deported-says-g4s">Behave or get deported, says G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/people-come-in-here-normal-but-they-get-ill-protesting-against-">‘People come in here normal, but they get ill.’ Protesting against deaths at a UK migrant jail</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/fail-fail-and-have-another-government-contract">Fail, fail, and have another government contract</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/five-years-of-denial-uk-government-s-reckless-pursuit-of-punitive-asylum-">Five years of denial: the UK government’s reckless pursuit of a punitive asylum policy — never mind the evidence of harm</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Shine A Light John Grayson Fri, 20 Oct 2017 11:07:33 +0000 John Grayson 114149 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘How do we get out if there’s a fire?’ In Yorkshire, G4S tenants live in fear https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/how-do-we-get-out-if-there-s-fire-in-yorkshire-g4s-tenants-live <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Security company G4S housed six families with babies and toddlers in a fire-trap hostel in Halifax.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AACHILD_WINDOW_460.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Looking out from the G4S hostel, June 2017 (John Grayson)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/AACHILD_WINDOW_460.JPG" alt="" title="Looking out from the G4S hostel, June 2017 (John Grayson)" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A child looks out from the G4S hostel, June 2017 (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>“The only way that landlord will do anything is when children die in there,” neighbours warned. “It’s because we are black, they don’t care,” one tenant said. They’re talking about a hostel that is home to six families and their nine children, most of them babies and toddlers.</p> <p>Tenants of the six flats in a converted house in Halifax, West Yorkshire, have told me they are frightened. They say the wiring is faulty, the hallways are blocked, and there’s repeated leaks and flooding. They’ve shown me the evidence. They worry about risk of fire, and how they might escape.</p> <p>I first learned about the hostel a little over two weeks ago, on Friday 9 June. A charity worker who supports one of the tenants asked for my help. She said tenants had struggled to get anybody to act on their concerns about fire safety and repairs. </p> <p>Some feared speaking out, worried that this might affect their claims for asylum. All of the tenants are asylum seekers.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/A_Street_view_hostel.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The G4S hostel: 17 asylum-seekers live in six flats above shops (images by John Grayson)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/A_Street_view_hostel.JPG" alt="" title="The G4S hostel: 17 asylum-seekers live in six flats above shops (images by John Grayson)" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>G4S hostel: 17 asylum-seekers live in six flats above shops (images by John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>The worker told me: “At 8.15pm on Tuesday 6 June I went to the flats. I noticed there was no indicator light on the alarm control panel. I contacted the regional manager for G4S, who called a repair man. He arrived just before 9pm, and began installing smoke alarms in the hallways. I am really worried about how safe people are in there.”</p><h2>A visit to the hostel</h2><p><span><span>I visited the hostel on Saturday 10 June and spent four hours inspecting, taking photographs, listening to tenants’ concerns.</span></span></p><p><span>The hostel is part of a converted townhouse, just off Halifax town centre, in the borough of Calderdale. The flats sit atop an electrical shop and another shop, apparently abandoned.</span></p><p>Directly above the shops are two flats. Another floor up, three more flats. Up another flight of stairs, at the top of the house is Flat 6, with more stairs leading up to a mezzanine within the flat.</p> <p>The hostel is owned by a private landlord and managed under a UK government contract by G4S, the international security company. A subcontractor procured the property. The client is the Home Office. Calderdale Council and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Services also have responsibilities towards tenants.</p> <p>One dangerous consequence of the privatisation of asylum housing, apparent in this case, is the fog around who is responsible for what.</p> <p>Here’s what some tenants told me. For their protection we’re calling them Mary, Brian, Eric, Helen, Tasmin, Joanne.</p><h2>Water rushes through the ceiling</h2> <p>“One day in January the electric main board was flashing ‘fire in room 3’ and we dialled 999,” Mary said. “The fire engine could not find the address. I was jumping up and down in the street waving my arms to get them to the flats. It took them forty-five minutes to get here from our call. They said that a leak from a boiler in the flat above had caused the alarm.”&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/B.water_thru_electrics.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Water rushes through light fittings"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/B.water_thru_electrics.JPG" alt="" title="Water rushes through light fittings" width="460" height="215" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Water rushes through light fittings (screenshot from tenant's video)</span></span></span></p><p>Brian worked as a builder in his home country. He worries about the risk of electrical fire.&nbsp;</p><p><span>“Water pours in everywhere,” he said. “This happened last week.” He showed me a video on his camera. I could see water rushing through the light fittings.</span></p><p>Joanne pointed to exposed wires hanging from the ceiling on one of the landings. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/C.water-leak-electrics.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Evidence of water penetration and ceiling repairs"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/C.water-leak-electrics.JPG" alt="" title="Evidence of water penetration and ceiling repairs" width="240" height="174" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Evidence of water ingress, ceiling repairs</span></span></span></p><p>“Perhaps the wires are not live there,” Joanne said. “But they frighten the older children who hear us talking about the water and the electrics causing fires.”&nbsp;<span>Signs of water penetration and ceiling repairs were all around.</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/D.G4S_hob.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="This hob replaced the cooker that fused the hostel&#039;s electrical circuits (John Grayson) "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/D.G4S_hob.JPG" alt="lead " title="This hob replaced the cooker that fused the hostel&#039;s electrical circuits (John Grayson) " width="240" height="180" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Replacement hob </span></span></span></p><p><span>Eric said his G4S cooker had fused the electrical circuits throughout the building. He showed me the replacement two-ring hob that G4S had supplied for himself, his wife and their baby.</span></p><p>Joanne took me to the only external door at the rear of the hostel. Because so many families with young children live here, the hallway is full of buggies. </p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/G.Shoddy_work_behind_cooker.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Shoddy electrical work behind a cooker"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/G.Shoddy_work_behind_cooker.JPG" alt="" title="Shoddy electrical work behind a cooker" width="240" height="189" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shoddy electrical work behind a cooker</span></span></span>“This is our only escape, we have to leave the buggies here, the stairs are so difficult, there is no fire escape,” Joanne said.&nbsp;</p><p>A neighbour who knows the flats had told her: “The only way that landlord will do anything is when children die in there.”</p><p><span>All the tenants said that over eight months, time and time again, they had contacted the G4S helpline pleading for better and safe conditions for their children.</span></p><p><span>Mary said: “They never do anything, even for the big things, heating and flooding. They don’t care. It’s because we are black, they don’t care.”</span></p> <p>She told me about when the downstairs corridor flooded: “There was water full of oil and waste from the drain outside.” She showed me video on her phone. The water was ankle deep.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/F.flood_best.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The flood water was ankle deep"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/F.flood_best.jpg" alt="" title="The flood water was ankle deep" width="460" height="490" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The flood water was ankle deep (screenshot from tenant video)</span></span></span></p><p>Tasmin pointed to wet plaster in a corner of the kitchen units in her flat. </p> <p>“Always water comes in,” she said. On her phone were pictures of the debris left when the wall unit crashed down, she said, narrowly missing her six-year-old daughter.</p><p><span>Tenants told me about other worries.</span></p> <p>“Early one morning I heard noises in my living room which woke me and I found a man from G4S there,” one lone mother said. </p><p><span>“He said he had used his own key to get in. My daughter was terrified, she has bad memories of men hurting me in the past. For months the door on my toilet and bathroom would not shut. G4S never did anything. I could have been in the toilet or showering when that man came in.”</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/E.buggies_hall.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Buggies crowd the escape route"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/E.buggies_hall.JPG" alt="" title="Buggies crowd the escape route" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Buggies crowd the escape route (John Grayson)</span></span></span></span></p> <p>She went on: “The local women’s centre suggested to G4S that I get a chain on my door. They refused, but the women’s centre threatened to get the work done themselves, and G4S put a chain on the door, and one on the door of another woman here — but still refused to fit chains on the other four flats.”</p><p>One of the support workers told me: “Three months ago, in March, St Augustine’s community centre sent complaints about the hostel to G4S, but nothing was done about them.” </p> <p>Another tenant recalled a visit from the Home Office: “G4S took them only to the flats where they knew the tenants could not speak good English and were frightened to complain. When I asked why they did not come to my flat, they said the Home Office did not have time.”&nbsp;</p><h2>If you won’t listen to the tenants. . . </h2> <p>G4S knows me and my work. I’m a housing academic. I work alongside refugees at South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group, <a href="http://www.symaag.org.uk">SYMAAG</a>. </p> <p>Since G4S won the Home Office asylum housing contract five years ago I’ve <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/john-grayson">published quite a lot about them</a>. </p> <p>On Monday 12 June I contacted G4S and Calderdale Borough councillors and told them that the hostel was unsafe.</p> <p>My intervention prompted an emergency inspection by council officers and West Yorkshire fire service on the Tuesday. On the Wednesday, a G4S welfare officer called in. One tenant suggested an emergency fire drill: “We have never had one, and it would show we cannot get out of the building safely.” </p> <p>The G4S welfare officer allegedly refused, saying: “That’s up to G4S, not me.”&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/H.REAR_VIEW_LITTLE_BOY.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Hostel rear view, little boy just visible at top window (John Grayson)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/H.REAR_VIEW_LITTLE_BOY.JPG" alt="" title="Hostel rear view, little boy just visible at top window (John Grayson)" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hostel rear view (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>Heidi Wilson is Calderdale Council’s head of environment and housing services. After the inspections she told me that the council took reports of risks to tenants “very seriously” and was “giving them a high priority”. They had given G4S a list of actions and a “short time frame”. Should G4S fail to make the necessary improvements the council “would certainly consider enforcement action”.&nbsp;</p><h2>A dangerous place for babies</h2><p>When I called in to check on progress on Thursday 15 June, I found G4S workers making repairs that had been first reported months ago. I was told that the Home Office was going to send someone to inspect the place.</p><p>I climbed all the way up to the top of the house to see Helen. She lives up there with husband Brian and their three year old son. Another stairway led to the small mezzanine where their son had had access to a floor-level window. On Tuesday&nbsp;<span>the council had noted the “poor guarding to the window”. So&nbsp;</span><span>G4S workmen had boarded up the stairway.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/J_BRAND_NEW_NOTICEBOARD15_June_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Brand new noticeboard, erected 15 June 2017"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/J_BRAND_NEW_NOTICEBOARD15_June_0.jpg" alt="" title="Brand new noticeboard, erected 15 June 2017" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Brand new noticeboard, erected 15 June 2017 (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>Helen told me: “The G4S boss when he came up here yesterday said: ‘This is a dangerous place for babies.’”</p><p>As I left the property I saw the G4S supervisor putting up a noticeboard by the front entrance, near the alarm control panel. He had pinned up no-smoking signs, a&nbsp;<span>warning about the absence of fire extinguishers,&nbsp;</span><span>a fire safety log book and a floor plan. Someone had taken a fat red marker pen and marked out a rough escape route on the plan.&nbsp;</span></p><p>All the information was in English. Most tenants are still learning the language.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/I.ESCAPE_PLAN_15_June.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="At last, an escape plan (John Grayson)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/I.ESCAPE_PLAN_15_June.jpg" alt="" title="At last, an escape plan (John Grayson)" width="460" height="411" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>At last, an escape plan (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>I set about researching fire safety, emailing and phoning the tenants and G4S with more questions.</p> <p>It wasn’t easy. Fire safety regulations are fiendishly complex. G4S’s own spokesman confessed to having difficulty. </p> <p>G4S appeared to be in breach of fire regulations. </p> <p>Before the hostel opened last year, it seems, they should have arranged for a fire risk assessment by a qualified fire safety practitioner — as required by the <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2005/1541/contents/made">Fire Safety Order 2005.</a></p><p>From what I could see, G4S had an obligation to test the alarm every week and hold a monthly fire drill. Tenants told me these things hadn’t happened.</p><div><p class="mag-quote-left">Tenant: It’s because we are black, they don’t care.</p><p>The regulations require that testing dates are recorded in a log book displayed in the building. The log book on the newly erected notice board contained just one entry —&nbsp;for a test dated April 2017.</p> <p>All escape corridors and landings should have smoke alarms and emergency lighting. But the hallway smoke alarms were fitted on Tuesday 6 June 2017, eight months after the hostel opened. </p> <p>Every kitchen should have a fire blanket. And they do. I asked one tenant, who is fluent in English, to open the packaging. She said: “The instructions are confusing. No one has ever told us about fire safety here. There are no instructions on the fire blanket or anywhere else in any language — except difficult English.”</p> <p>My reading of the regulations suggests that G4S has a responsibility to inform and regularly update tenants on fire safety — and to provide safety information in appropriate languages.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Neighbour: The only way that landlord will do anything is when children die in there.</p><p>All of these things seem anyway like basic common sense if you are housing multiple families with small children in a four or five storey house.</p> <p>As landlords of asylum housing for babies and small children, G4S has particular obligations. </p> <p>The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 (<a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2009/11/section/55">Section 55)</a> requires that immigration and asylum functions be carried out with respect for the need to “safeguard and promote the welfare of children”.</p> <p>After the Calderdale council inspection on Tuesday 13 June, one tenant told me: “The council man said the bedroom with my children should not be used. He said the window was too small to let light in for them.” &nbsp;</p> <p>I asked G4S to respond to the issues raised in this article. On 15 June a G4S spokesman said the building had a valid electrical certificate and was “compliant with fire safety standards”. </p> <p>About the flooding, G4S said: “There has been a very recent issue with damp after the landlord installed a new concrete walkway outside the property which is not draining effectively.&nbsp;We are in discussions to have a drain fitted. A roof leak has also recently been rectified and the landlord will be making good any cosmetic damage that arose.”&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/K.G4Slogo2JUNE2006.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/K.G4Slogo2JUNE2006.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>And the intrusion? G4S said: “Our protocol is that when our staff visit a property they knock twice (leaving a gap in between).&nbsp;If there is no answer they unlock the door and call out to announce themselves.&nbsp;If there is still no answer they then proceed into the property, calling out that they are from G4S. We are entirely confident that this procedure is — and was — followed at this property.”</p> <p>At the company’s request —&nbsp;(the spokesman sounded quite flustered) — we delayed publication of this piece to give G4S time to provide further comment.</p><p>On Tuesday 20 June, I tuned in to BBC Radio Sheffield, for&nbsp;<span>Toby Foster</span><span>’s</span>&nbsp;breakfast show. He had an <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p056f4dx">interview with John Whitwam</a>, the ex-army officer who is G4S managing director, immigration and borders. Whitwam told listeners that G4S had about 18,000 asylum-seekers in 5,000 properties. “There is a great deal of scrutiny,” he said. “These properties are probably the most inspected in the UK.”</p></div><p><span>Whitwam said the G4S helpline took 4,000 calls last month. Toby Foster cut in: “5,000 houses, 4,000 calls! Nearly every house is ringing you every month!”</span></p> <p>Whitwam replied: “These aren’t <em>all</em> complaints.” And then: “That’s not to say many of them aren’t.”</p> <p>I was still waiting for the company’s response to my queries on Tuesday evening, when a tenant called to say that an extractor fan had fallen off the wall in Flat 2. She said she was only slightly injured, but her four year old child was hysterical.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/L.John_Whitwam-BBC-Derbyshire.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="John Whitwam on BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme 31 January 2017"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/L.John_Whitwam-BBC-Derbyshire.jpg" alt="" title="John Whitwam on BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme 31 January 2017" width="460" height="286" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>John Whitwam on BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme 31 January 2017</span></span></span></p> <p>On Tuesday evening, Brian was back in touch. He said the G4S welfare officer had been round to tell them: “The Home Office are coming tomorrow, you have to say everything is fine in the flats.”</p> <p>On Wednesday afternoon Brian called again. He said the woman from the Home Office had been round, she’d done more talking than listening and assured them that if there’s a fire, they’ll have plenty of time to get out.</p><p>On Thursday another tenant called to say that workmen were, at last, fitting smoke alarms in tenants’ rooms.&nbsp;</p> <h2>A curious response from G4S</h2> <p>Also on Wednesday came the company’s detailed response to my queries.</p> <p>It was odd.</p> <p>G4S offered a series of curious assertions that neither confirmed nor denied tenants’ allegations about fire safety, but, rather, bypassed their concerns.</p> <p>For example, G4S noted: “Smoke alarm and fire alarm tests as recorded in our monthly property inspection report.”</p> <p>On the absence of fire drills, G4S claimed: “Drills are not mandatory for private dwellings.”</p> <p><em>Private</em> dwellings? </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">G4S: These properties are probably the most inspected in the UK.</p><p>And: “All fire safety information is provided as part of the induction when asylum seekers move into the property and information in 71 languages is available in the home.”</p> <p>Seventy-one languages!</p> <p>About the absence of fire log books, G4S claimed: they “are sometimes taken away and used as notebooks by residents.”</p> <p>And the apparent failure to arrange a fire risk assessment on the building until after I got involved? G4S claimed: “All fire alarm systems are checked monthly.” </p> <p>About the Fire Service inspection of 13 June, prompted by my interventions, G4S claimed: “All adjustments recommended have now been completed. Any observations made by the fire services regarding door fittings or openings were rectified within two days.”</p> <p>About the alarm control panel that had either been turned off or was defective, G4S said: “We require service users to report defects to control panels and we operate a 24 hours turn around policy to fix or replace such systems.” </p> <p>G4S has claimed repeatedly that it <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/8e793754-d6dd-3531-b8b9-c00de20fb4a9?mhq5j=e3">loses money on asylum housing.</a> The company, which had no prior experience of housing asylum seekers, won the Home Office contract after a computer-based reverse auction. G4S bid £8.42 per family member per night (according to contract details revealed in a High Court judgement <a href="http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2017/200.html">here</a>). At that price, packing 17 people into the Halifax hostel brings the monthly take to around £4,300.</p> <h2>Who’re you gonna call?</h2> <p>Until last Thursday, Calderdale <a href="https://www.calderdale.gov.uk/v2/residents/community-and-living/equality-and-diversity/asylum-seekers-and-refugees">Council’s website told asylum-seekers</a> in the borough that their housing was provided, not by G4S, but by another company, Cascade Homes. The council supplied a phone number tenants could call if they needed help and advice.</p> <p>I called the number. An angry man picked up. He said he was fed up with getting calls and he had nothing to do with Cascade.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/N.calderdalewebsite.20JUNE2017_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Calderdale Council&#039;s misleading advice to asylum-seekers (screenshot 20 June 2017)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/N.calderdalewebsite.20JUNE2017_1.jpg" alt="" title="Calderdale Council&#039;s misleading advice to asylum-seekers (screenshot 20 June 2017)" width="460" height="382" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Calderdale Council's misleading advice to asylum-seekers (screenshot 20 June 2017)</span></span></span></p><p>I told the council about that —&nbsp;they corrected the online advice. They said Cascade no longer managed properties in Calderdale, only procured them. G4S confirmed: “Yes, all properties in the Halifax area are provided by Cascade.”</p><p>I was sorry that Cascade had been given any role to play. </p> <p>Over years I’ve reported on their shoddy behaviour. How Cascade asylum properties in Leeds were <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/cockroach-in-baby%E2%80%99s-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s">infested with cockroaches and slugs</a>.&nbsp;<span>Male staff </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/their-secret-is-out-but-for-g4s-and-friends-%E2%80%98abject-disregard-for-human-dign">harassed women tenants</a><span>.&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/g4s-forced-to-step-in-over-sub-contractors-performance/7001552.article">Cascade failed to pay energy bills and council tax bills</a><span>. </span></p><p><span>My evidence has been&nbsp;</span><span>cited in Parliamentary inquiries and debates. Speaking in the Commons on 27 February 2013, </span><a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmhaff/71/71vw32008_HC71_01_VIRT_HomeAffairs_ASY-93.htm">Mark Durkan MP said</a><span>: “What is especially alarming is that the neglect and suffering go on, regardless of this kind of public and Parliamentary exposure. There has been little impact on the everyday practice of G4S and their subcontractors.”&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>In February 2014 G4S announced that they&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/g4s-forced-to-step-in-over-sub-contractors-performance/7001552.article">had dropped Cascade.</a></p> <h2>‘<span>I watched that place burn</span><span>’</span></h2> <p>While we were working on this piece, on Wednesday 14 June 2017, fire gutted a tower block in West London with appalling loss of life. </p> <p>The block was called Grenfell Tower. </p> <p>The residents were mostly people of colour, and poor. The first victim to be named was <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/grenfell-tower-fire-first-victim-named-mohammed-alhajali-syrian-refugee-a7791401.html">Mohammed Alhajali, a Syrian refugee</a>. </p> <p>Grenfell tenants had warned repeatedly that the flats were unsafe. Their warnings were variously dismissed, ignored, and met with legal threats. </p> <p>“White tenants said their concerns were ultimately ignored, but officials were more likely to listen to them,”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/20/opinion/london-tower-grenfell-fire.html">British journalist Dawn Foster</a>&nbsp;<span>wrote</span><span>&nbsp;in the New York Times. “Black and South Asian survivors told me they felt the implicit message from everyone they contacted before the fire for help with the building was ‘you are a guest in this borough, and a guest in this country, you have no right to complain’.”</span></p> <p>Back in the Halifax hostel, the tenants have come from East Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.&nbsp;<span>Up in the top flat, Brian told me how Grenfell had shocked him: “I watched that place burn,” he said. “I thought I couldn’t get out of this flat if there is a fire.”</span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><ul><li>Edited by Clare Sambrook for <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/collections/shine-light">Shine A Light</a> at openDemocracy.</li><li>To follow John on Twitter: @SYMAAG</li><li>To follow Clare and Shine A Light:&nbsp;</li><li>@CLARESAMBROOK</li><li>@SHINEreports</li></ul><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/fail-fail-and-have-another-government-contract">Fail, fail, and have another government contract</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/welcome-to-my-asylum-home-i-d-offer-you-seat-if-i-had-one">Welcome to my asylum home. I’d offer you a seat — if I had one</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/jackie-long/headbutt-bitch-serco-guard-yarl-s-wood-uk-immigration-detention-centre">&#039;Headbutt the bitch&#039; Serco guard, Yarl’s Wood, a UK immigration detention centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seekers-with-red-doors-are-still-being-targeted-by-racis">Asylum seekers with red doors are still being targeted by racists</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/rats-in-yard-4-years-of-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">Rats in the yard: 4 years of UK asylum housing by G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">The racist texts. What the Mubenga trial jury was not told</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/theresa-may-s-tough-line-on-immigration-punishes-br">Theresa May’s tough line on immigration punishes British children</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/gareth-mitchell/high-court-blasts-outrageous-assault-by-tascor-staff-on-tort">High Court blasts ‘outrageous’ assault by Tascor staff on torture survivor</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/margaret-hodge/parliamentary-watchdog-too-often-private-sector-contractors-ethical-stand">Parliamentary watchdog: too often private sector contractors&#039; ethical standards found wanting</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/frances-webber/uk-government-s-inversion-of-accountability">The UK government’s inversion of accountability</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/capita-guard-course-did-not-tell-me-what-to-do-if-someone-is-not-breathing">Capita guard: “The course did not tell me what to do if someone is not breathing”</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Austerity Prisons & child prisoners Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Mon, 26 Jun 2017 23:08:14 +0000 John Grayson 111844 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Behave or get deported, says G4S https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/behave-or-get-deported-says-g4s <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>EXCLUSIVE: The world’s biggest security company, landlord to asylum-seekers, threatens tenants with expulsion from the UK.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/G4Slogo_720.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/G4Slogo_720.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="270" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>About 900 people who are seeking asylum live in the city of Sheffield, in South Yorkshire. For five years G4S, the world’s largest security company, has held the government contract to accommodate them whilst they await the outcome of their claims for asylum.</p> <p>A couple of weeks ago, visiting tenants in one of G4S’s asylum houses, I spotted a surprising document. Displayed prominently on the house notice board, and marked “Private and Confidential”, here it is:</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/TheNotice.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/TheNotice.JPG" alt="" title="" width="400" height="533" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>It’s a letter from “G4S Immigration and Borders”. Dated 10 November 2016, it begins: “Dear UK Asylum Seeker RESPECT IN ASYLUM ACCOMMODATION”. </p> <p>G4S thanks “the majority of tenants” who respect G4S staff, and goes on: “There are, however, a few who do not respect the officers allocated to look after them.”</p> <p>The letter reports “a brutal and cowardly attack” by an asylum tenant on a G4S officer in Birmingham, which resulted in the officer being hospitalised and the asylum seeker being arrested and “forcibly deported back to his country of origin”.</p> <p>G4S then warns that tenants who “are abusive and aggressive will not be tolerated and will be reported to the Police and may be deported away from the UK”.</p> <p>And: “Unacceptable behaviour is always reported to the Police and Home Office and kept on their records while your application is being considered.”</p> <p>And: “Those who threaten or attack (with words or actions) may be detained and deported away from the UK.”</p> <p>G4S signs off with a list of rules, ending in: “You must not participate in illegal activity, including smoking indoors.”</p><p><span>So, here’s G4S telling vulnerable tenants that words alone, perhaps even a crafty smoke, could result in detention and deportation. </span></p><p><span>What is the legal basis for that?</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/no_smoking_G4S property.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/no_smoking_G4S property.JPG" alt="" title="" width="400" height="533" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Notice in a G4S house in Sheffield, April 2017 (John Grayson)</span></span></span><br /></span></p> <p>I showed the letter to Frances Webber, the distinguished immigration barrister. Here’s what she said:</p> <p>“My response is to ask how far has outsourcing gone? Is a private corporation now mandated to make decisions on asylum and deportation?”</p> <p>Webber explained: “G4S, like any owner of accommodation, is entitled to tell residents that assaults on staff will be reported to police, and if the accommodation is run on behalf of the Home Office, that Home Office officials will also be notified. But a private company has no business issuing threats of deportation, let alone to people who are likely to be particularly vulnerable because of what they have witnesses and/ or experienced.”</p> <p>It’s not rocket science. If I assault a G4S officer I might have to go to prison, but that’s a decision for the independent judiciary and (i) should not affect my immigration status and (ii) should not be decided by G4S telling the Home Office to send me down and then deport me.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">My response is to ask how far has outsourcing gone? Is a private corporation now mandated to make decisions on asylum and deportation?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Publicly, G4S has strongly and repeatedly denied that it has any say over peoples claims for asylum. Here’s G4S boss John Whitwam speaking on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show:</p> <p>“I have no influence or interest in the application which the asylum seekers have, whether they are granted asylum or not is not anything to do with the providers such as G4S and Serco it is entirely a matter for the Home Office.” (His job title, by the way, is: managing director, immigration and borders.)</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/John_Whitwam-BBC-Derbyshire_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/John_Whitwam-BBC-Derbyshire_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="286" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>John Whitwam, managing director, immigration and borders, G4S</span></span></span></p> <p>Also on the programme was Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP who chairs the parliamentary Home Affairs Committee. In response to Whitwam’s assurances she said: “<em>I </em>know that, and you know that, but for a lot of <em>them</em>, <em>they</em> don’t know that and they’re fearful and that’s the problem.”</p> <p>This exchange starts about six minutes into the clip, and the date is Tuesday 31 January. That’s a couple of months <em>after</em> G4S authorised the printing, distribution and display of a frightening notice threatening tenants with deportation. </p> <p><span class="mag-quote-center">I have no influence or interest in the application which the asylum seekers have.</span></p><p><span>I asked G4S and the Home Office to respond on the issues raised in this article. The Home Office did not respond.</span></p> <p>G4S emailed a statement:&nbsp;<span>“Our teams have no influence on the course of an asylum seeker’s application and we recognise that the language used in this letter was emotive and imprecise. It came following a serious attack on one of our welfare officers that left them badly injured and fearful of returning to work.</span></p> <p>“We will ensure that our future communications are expressed more clearly because we have a responsibility to remind the small number of asylum seekers who are violent or abusive that their conduct will be referred to the Home Office and the police. This fulfils our duty of care to the safety of our colleagues and we also believe that it is what the public would expect.</p> <p>“On the specific point regarding legislation on verbal abuse, there are multiple sections within the Public Order Act around causing harassment, alarm or distress which could apply in those cases.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">We recognise that the language used in this letter was emotive and imprecise.</span></p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, was it just a matter of some “emotive and imprecise” language? </p> <p>Over the past five years, working alongside asylum tenants, I have heard many reports of G4S staff, now called ‘Welfare Officers’, threatening them with consequences for their claims for asylum, if they protested about conditions. G4S has a poor record in Sheffield both for the quality of accommodation and for its disrespectful behaviour towards tenants. </p> <p>In 2015 in one Sheffield G4S house, with eight young men in shared bedrooms, G4S had been inundated with complaints about the very poor conditions and the way tenants were forced to share bedrooms. G4S staff posted their own version of tenancy rules – the Golden Rules, stating they had no choice in sharing bedrooms, and no choice of roommate. When the young men took down the notice and told other people in Sheffield, they were summoned to a meeting with G4S staff and told any further protests would be reported to the Home Office and it would affect their asylum claims.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Golden_Rules_July_2015.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Golden_Rules_July_2015.JPG" alt="" title="" width="400" height="533" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>G4S Golden Rules posted in an asylum house, Sheffield, July 2015</span></span></span></p> <p>This past February, a tenant whose home had for months been infested with bedbugs told me: “Ten days ago, I was really desperate. The children, particularly my ten year old son, have flashbacks at night and the bedbugs make it even worse, none of us have slept well for months and months.” He showed me his own medical report. It featured “post-traumatic stress disorder… symptoms of nightmares, flashbacks and insomnia…suicidal thoughts”.</p> <p>He said: “G4S have done nothing about the bed bugs in either of the houses, and simply brought mouse trap boxes to keep down the numbers. So I was determined to keep ringing their Help Line every day until they came to clear up the bugs. On 14 February, I rang them and again demanded action. The operator shouted down the phone ‘If you call again and complain we will make sure that this will affect your asylum claim.’”&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/fail-fail-and-have-another-government-contract">Fail, fail, and have another government contract</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/welcome-to-my-asylum-home-i-d-offer-you-seat-if-i-had-one">Welcome to my asylum home. I’d offer you a seat — if I had one</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/people-come-in-here-normal-but-they-get-ill-protesting-against-">‘People come in here normal, but they get ill.’ Protesting against deaths at a UK migrant jail</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/rats-in-yard-4-years-of-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">Rats in the yard: 4 years of UK asylum housing by G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seekers-with-red-doors-are-still-being-targeted-by-racis">Asylum seekers with red doors are still being targeted by racists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/bed-bugs-and-freight-sheds-britain-s-welcome-to-asylum-seekers">Bed bugs and freight sheds: Britain’s welcome to asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-for-asylum-seekers-mps-grill-one-of-britain-s-richest">Red doors for asylum seekers: MPs grill one of Britain’s richest landlords</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Mon, 24 Apr 2017 07:30:23 +0000 John Grayson 110268 at https://www.opendemocracy.net ‘People come in here normal, but they get ill.’ Protesting against deaths at a UK migrant jail https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/people-come-in-here-normal-but-they-get-ill-protesting-against- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Intrusive police surveillance deployed against peaceful protestors at Morton Hall. (See also: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-was-held-for-staggering-151-days-in-men-s-immigration-lockup-mor/feed">Child held for 151 days at Morton Hall</a>)</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Police_surveillanceMARCH2017.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Police_surveillanceMARCH2017.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Demonstrators march on Morton Hall immigration removal centre, Lincolnshire, 11 March 2017 (Manuch)</span></span></span></p> <ul><li><strong>“Thanks for coming, get it out there, tell people what’s happening in here!”</strong></li><li><span><strong>Message shouted through the wire and steel walls of Morton Hall detention centre</strong></span></li></ul> <p>Eleven days into 2017 <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jan/13/investigation-after-third-death-in-uk-immigration-detention-centre">Lukasz Debowski</a>, a 27-year-old Polish man, was found dead at a Morton Hall, a little-known immigration detention centre in rural Lincolnshire.</p> <p>Fellow inmates said that Lukasz was “young and quiet, never causing any trouble”, that&nbsp;<span>he had not committed any crime in the UK and that he had sought medical help for mental health problems.</span><span>&nbsp;They said he’d spent his time watching TV, playing games and at the gym. </span></p><p><span>They said Lukasz had killed himself, and that he’d been refused bail just before Christmas because he could not provide sureties.</span></p> <p>His partner, whose advanced pregnancy left her unable to attend the bail hearing, gave birth to the couple’s son on the day that Lukasz died. </p> <p><span>The mood at Morton Hall was low.</span></p> <p>Just a few weeks earlier, another Morton Hall detainee had died in hospital. A friend reported to the <a href="https://detainedvoices.com/tag/morton-hall/">Detained Voices</a> website that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/dec/07/investigation-second-death-immigrant-centre-morton-hall-week">Bai Ahmed Kabia</a> fell down in his cell “foaming at the mouth”, that nurses were called at 3pm, and Kabia was taken to hospital four hours later. </p> <p>“He was really a nice person and was always willing to help people,” said the friend, a fellow detainee: “He would just help people through the goodness of his heart for nothing in return.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/dec/07/investigation-second-death-immigrant-centre-morton-hall-week">Bai Ahmed Kabia</a> was reportedly 49 years old and stateless, probably from Sierra Leone. The friend said he had lived in the UK for 27 years. Detainees had heard that when Bai Ahmed Kabia was close to death, the Home Office had signed his release papers. </p> <p>“If he was given bail and left here. People would have been proud and happy,” said the friend. “But the way he left really weighs heavy on your heart. The media needs to know about this. This place is a stressful place. He’s been punished. We don’t have anyone to stand for us.”</p> <h2><span>Standing up for immigration detainees</span></h2> <p>Members of SYMAAG (South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group) decided to organise a demonstration to highlight the deaths, to show support and solidarity for the 392 men locked up at Morton Hall, and to alert local and national attention to this little-known immigration removal centre in the Lincolnshire countryside. We chose the date, Saturday 11 March.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Marching_to_the_fences.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Marching_to_the_fences.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protestors march on Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre, Lincolnshire, 11 March 2017 (picture by Manuch)</span></span></span></p> <p>In early February I took a call from Lincolnshire Police Liaison Officer Jimmy Conway 997, a Group B Community Patrol Constable, who is based in Sleaford. He said that he and another liaison officer in pale blue jackets would be the only police presence (with ‘resources’ nearby but out of sight), and asked us to appoint our own security marshalls “to keep everyone safe”. He seemed relaxed. </p> <p>But then, things changed.</p><h2>Intrusive surveillance</h2><p>About 60 people travelled from Sheffield, Leeds, Nottingham and Oxford to Morton Hall, near the village of Swinderby, 8 miles south west of Lincoln.</p> <p>On the morning of the demonstration, just as our coach was leaving Sheffield, PC Conway called me again. He said: “There will be a number of uniformed officers present now John, and a unit who will be filming – you will recognise them by the orange flashes on their jackets.”</p> <p>Surveillance as deterrence works. Some of my SYMAAG colleagues in Huddersfield and Sheffield had already chosen not to come because they were still in the asylum system. They feared surveillance and its effect on their asylum claims.</p> <p>PC Conway was true to his word. We were greeted at the gates to Morton Hall by a vanload of uniformed police and a van with members of the filming unit. As you can see from the picture: specialist filming cops were getting close-ups of demonstrators. This is pretty unusual in my experience — I have never seen them openly filming amongst demonstrators at the four Yarl’s Wood detention centre demonstrations I have attended.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/CROP_POLICE_SURVEILLANCE.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/CROP_POLICE_SURVEILLANCE.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="289" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Intense police surveillance of a peaceful demonstration, Morton Hall, 11 March 2017 (Manuch)</span></span></span></p> <p>They didn’t like our photographer filming <em>them</em>. One officer asked him: “How long have you been here in the UK?”</p> <p>“Twenty two years,” he replied.</p><h2>Speaking from inside Morton Hall</h2> <p>We had some phone numbers for men locked up inside Morton Hall who had agreed to let us amplify their voices on our sound system. </p> <p>They told us management had tried to undermine the demonstration.</p> <p>“They play music and stop us being outside, they also bring ice cream,” one man told us. “When we heard chants and we managed to get outside. We then heard it was people supporting us people.” </p> <p>Another said: “We heard the protesting and they try to stop us going outside but we manage to. They tell us it’s about a football team.” </p> <p>And another: “I shut off the music, they will come and grab me today because I stopped the music.”</p><h2>“Freedom! Freedom!”</h2> <p>About 40 men gathered behind the wire fences. One climbed up the fencing and was able to shout to us. He was Nariman Jalal Karim, an Iranian asylum seeker who said he had been locked up in Morton Hall for six months. He was a physical education teacher who had left his family in the Middle East. For two hours, he chanted “Freedom! Freedom!”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Climbed_fence.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Climbed_fence.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Nariman, at top right of picture, scales the fence and shouts 'Freedom! Freedom!' (Manuch)</span></span></span></p> <p>One man, who <a href="https://soundcloud.com/user-557324857/morton-hall-inmate-describes-treatment-inside-immigration-prison">spoke for eight minutes</a>, told us: “People come in here normal but they get ill. But they don’t care, they don’t care. There are people in here who shouldn’t be here — old people with grandchildren, some have not seen family for years.”</p> <p>“People need medical attention, for mental health, for diabetes. They need physical and emotional support.</p> <p>“They lock us up like prison and it’s bad conditions. They don’t want us to show how we are living here. People taking their lives, we have no release date. You’ve no idea what detention does to your mind and body.</p> <p>“A hundred of us sent a letter to the Home Office because of how long they are keeping us in here, but they never replied. They treat us like rubbish, leaving us to rot in here”</p> <p>Among us protestors on the outside of the fence was Kingsley, who had been locked up at Morton Hall. Our sound system carried his voice to the protestors on the other side of the fence.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Kingsley_solidarity.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Kingsley_solidarity.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="689" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kingsley at Morton Hall (Manuch)</span></span></span>“They refused me health care,” Kingsley said. “They treated me like a liar and I had to prove myself. It’s a disgrace. On my first night, I was in lots of pain. They did not believe me. By the third time I asked for help and was refused, I broke everything in the room. They finally called a nurse. They finally called the ambulance.”</p> <p>About the two recent deaths at Morton Hall, Kingsley said: “One man died because he was not given medical attention. You will be next if you don’t stand up for your freedom against oppression.”&nbsp; </p> <p>“You have to fight. Never work for £1 an hour. If you refuse to cook and clean, the place will not run. Keep fighting!!”</p> <p>By phone from inside Morton Hall, one man protested about mobile phones with cameras being confiscated. “They don’t want us to show what it’s like in here,” he said. “But we can’t even have pictures of our families and grandchildren to remember. We’re not prisoners, we’re not criminals, but we would be better off in prison, there we could have our phones.”</p> <p>Bill McKeith from the Close Campsfield detention centre campaign told the demonstration: “This is an important day to expose what’s going on in Morton Hall. There are ten detention centres in the UK, nine are privately run – this one is run by the Prison Service on behalf of the Home Office. It was a prison for men from 1985 then for women from 2009, and since 2011 the prison changed its name and became an Immigration Removal Centre for 392 men. But it’s still run like a prison – a badly run prison. The contract paid the Prison Service £11m of taxpayers<span>’</span><span>&nbsp;money in its first year, and presumably a lot more since then.”</span></p><h2>A safe place?</h2><p>Morton Hall, a former women’s prison, was ‘reroled’ as an immigration removal centre in May 2011. Within months —&nbsp; in September 2011 —&nbsp;eighteen men went on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/uk-england-lincolnshire-14946764">hunger strike</a>&nbsp;to resist their removal to Afghanistan.&nbsp;</p><p>In&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-18973240">July 2012 two men took to the roof</a>; many detainees were “upset” over the duration of their detention, the BBC reported.</p><p>The Prison Officers’ Association&nbsp;<a href="http://www.itv.com/news/calendar/topic/morton-hall-immigration-removal-centre/">told ITV News</a>&nbsp;in November 2012 that 150 detainees had protested and staff had “been forced” to use their batons. The POA blamed rising tensions on the mix of high and low-risk detainees.&nbsp;</p><p>On Christmas Day and 30 December 2012, staff and detainees were injured in disturbances involving scores of inmates. The POA&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jan/06/morton-hall-christmas-disturbances">told the Guardian</a>&nbsp;that staffing levels were&nbsp;“at the very, very sharp end of what we believe to be safe”. But the UK Border Agency insisted:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jan/06/morton-hall-christmas-disturbances">“Morton Hall is a safe place for detainees and staff.”</a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MAIN_GATE_HMIP.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MAIN_GATE_HMIP.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="347" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Main gate, Morton Hall (HMIP)</span></span></span></p> <p>In September 2014 Morton Hall again erupted in a protest after a 26 year old Bangladeshi man called <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/sep/07/morton-hall-immigration-detention-centre-death-rubel-ahmed">Rubel Ahmed</a> was found hanging in his cell.</p><p>In March 2015 Morton Hall joined Yarl’s Wood women and people in Harmondsworth in a <a href="https://www.vice.com/en_au/article/protests-and-hunger-strikes-are-breaking-out-at-immigration-detention-centres-all-over-the-uk-009">hunger strike to highlight conditions across detention centres</a> which had been the subject of a parliamentary inquiry, and a Channel 4 documentary exposing conditions in Yarl’s Wood and Harmondsworth.</p> <p>Across detention centres in the UK, figures show that there were 185 recorded incidents of self-harm in 2010. By 2015, that <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/rise-in-self-harm-at-asylum-detention-centres-10519471">number had more than doubled</a> to 409. In 2015 across the detention estate there <a href="http://www.no-deportations.org.uk/Media-2014/Self-Harm2015.html">were 393 suicide attempts</a>&nbsp;recorded. That’s an average of more than one a day. Morton Hall IRC with 51, was the fourth highest, and had 252 inmates listed as ‘at risk’ of suicide during the year.</p> <p>A team of prisons inspectors visited Morton Hall last November and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-was-held-for-staggering-151-days-in-men-s-immigration-lockup-mor">reported today</a>: “Half the detainees in our survey said they had problems with feeling depressed or suicidal on arrival. There had been a three-fold increase in incidents of self-harm since the previous inspection [in March 2013]. During the previous year, four detainees had narrowly escaped fatal or serious injuries as a result of self-harm.”</p> <h2><span>Protest and be punished</span></h2> <p>In a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-39244905">statement to the BBC Look North programme</a>, after the Morton Hall demonstration, the Home Office said it respected “everyone’s right to peaceful protest” but detention centres were “essential elements of an effective immigration system”.</p> <p>Directly after the demonstration Nariman and one of the people who had spoken on the phone to us, Raffael Ebison, were punished and shipped out of Morton Hall. I spoke to both of them whilst writing this article. </p> <p>Nariman told me: “I am in Brook House now, it looks like another prison. They sent both of us here yesterday (Thursday 16 March)”. </p> <p>Raffael said: “At the end of the protest on Saturday I was taken straight to the segregation block. We had to stay there till they sent us here to Brook House.”</p> <p>Campaigners at the demonstration continue to support and contact Nariman and Raffael in Brook House. Plans are already being made for another action at Morton Hall. We are determined to shut down Morton Hall…and all detention centres in the UK.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Author note: Thanks to Lizy for notes, and to Manuch for photographs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/child-was-held-for-staggering-151-days-in-men-s-immigration-l">Child was held for a staggering 151 days in men’s immigration lockup Morton Hall in Lincolnshire</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/uk-immigration-detention-truth-is-out">UK immigration detention: the truth is out</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller-clare-sambrook/national-shame-that-is-healthcare-in-uk-immigration-detention">The national shame that is healthcare in UK immigration detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/lotte-lewis-smith/rough-handling-and-restraint-uk-forced-removals-still-nast">Rough handling and restraint: UK forced removals still a nasty business</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/phil-miller/inquest-jury-finds-failures-in-detainee-healthcare">Inquest jury finds failures in detainee healthcare</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:14:51 +0000 John Grayson 109549 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fail, fail, and have another government contract https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/fail-fail-and-have-another-government-contract <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Security contractors G4S and Serco and housing company Clearsprings have for years supplied UK asylum seekers with shoddy housing. The contracts carry on regardless.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/under_kitchen_window.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/under_kitchen_window.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>G4S asylum housing, Leicester (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>For five years now I’ve exposed the dangerous consequences of the UK’s ill-conceived, badly planned and poorly executed rush to privatise housing for asylum seekers. I’ve told of children exposed to health risks in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/living-with-rats-landlord-g4s">rat-infested homes</a>, a <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/cockroach-in-baby%E2%80%99s-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s">cockroach in the baby's bottle</a>, lone women&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/their-secret-is-out-but-for-g4s-and-friends-%E2%80%98abject-disregard-for-human-dign">intimidated by their landlords</a>.</p> <p>This home is one of the worst. It’s a terraced house in the East Midlands of England, just off Leicester’s city centre. I call in one frosty morning in early January. Paul comes to the door. He is an asylum seeker from the Middle East who speaks fluent English.</p><h2><strong>Living with bed bugs</strong></h2><p>“The house is full of bedbugs, in David’s bedroom, another guy’s bedroom and all in here—.” Paul points to the settee in the lounge.</p> <p>The room is full of bedclothes and personal belongings. “G4S never clears away what they take from rooms when people leave,” says Paul. “We don’t like throwing the things away, people might come back.”</p> <p>Four men live here. David speaks to me in Arabic, Paul interpreting. “I have been here over a year and the bedbugs have got worse,” says David. “I had to throw my mattress in the yard and I sleep on the floor. I try and stop the bugs coming in through the floor boards by taping up the room.”</p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/david_bedroom.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="David&#039;s bedroom"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/david_bedroom.JPG" alt="" title="David&#039;s bedroom" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>David's room (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>Outside David shows me piles of rubbish – infested mattresses, bedclothes, broken furniture. </p> <p>“Ring G4S all the time,” he says in broken English. “Never come.” </p> <p>Paul fetches some dead bugs he has saved. David shows me the bites on his arms and stomach.</p><p>I ask Paul how long he has been in the house. “Four months,” he says. Paul came to England in a refrigerated lorry— “It was very cold, four people on the lorry had to go to hospital.”</p><p>He claimed asylum: “They took me to detention centre, Campsfield. I was there two months, then Birmingham. One month in Kensington hotel.”&nbsp;</p><p>I had been to the Kensington, a rundown place G4S used alongside Birmingham initial accommodation centre, for people waiting to be housed.&nbsp;</p><p>Paul goes on: “Two months in Birmingham centre, then Stoke.”&nbsp;</p><p>I ask him about the Stoke house.&nbsp;</p><p>“Really bad,” he says.&nbsp;</p><p>After a further two months the Home Office claimed that Paul had been fingerprinted in Hungary on his journey and thus had to be deported back there. He was rearrested and sent back to Campsfield where he spent a further two months. Then in October 2016 he was moved again to the Leicester terraced house with the bed bugs.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/bed_bugss.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/bed_bugss.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bed bugs (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>David shows me his leg and a badly scarred knee.</p> <p>“I get this from torture in my own country,” he says. “I cannot walk very far but I have been given a bus pass.” </p> <p>The heating has failed many times and the radiator in Paul’s bedroom has broken away from the wall. His window doesn’t shut. </p> <p>“The walls were falling on me,” Paul said, pointing to cracked plasterwork he had repaired with tape.</p> <p>A G4S maintenance worker had inspected the house on 12 December and passed on an urgent text message to G4S, demanding remedy. One whole month later David told me nothing had happened. I went back to the house a few days ago. Friends had come to help get rid of the sofa and the lounge had been cleared, but not by G4S. The bed bugs were thriving. Paul showed me fresh bites on his arms.</p> <h2><strong>Victoria Derbyshire — a bad day for contractors</strong></h2> <p>Lately the lives of asylum seekers housed in the UK by commercial contractors got <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04rfnc2">rare prime time attention</a> on BBC television. The occasion was publication of a damning report from the Home Affairs Select Committee who’d found “vulnerable people in unsafe accommodation. . . children living with infestations of mice, rats or bed bugs, lack of health care for pregnant women. . . inadequate support for victims of rape and torture.” </p> <p>The MPs had urged a complete overhaul of the contracting system. </p> <p>Committee chair Yvette Cooper appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme alongside G4S executive John Whitwam.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Derbyshire31JAN2017.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Derbyshire31JAN2017.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="335" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme 31 January 2017</span></span></span></p> <p>The presenter asked the G4S man: “Would <em>you</em> live in a house infested by rats, mice and bed bugs?”</p> <p>“No, of course I wouldn’t,” Whitwam said. </p> <p>He claimed G4S inspections had found defects and addressed them: “The issue is not that things go wrong in a house —&nbsp;they go wrong in my house, they go wrong in every house,&nbsp;but the requirement we have to address them, which we do.”</p> <p>That was Tuesday 31 January. A bad day for the contractors, but not nearly as bad as it might have been. </p> <p>The MPs’ report had downplayed evidence of racism and intimidation. Evidence, <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/asylum-accommodation/written/37481.html">for example,</a> from the Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS) who said that “derogatory and racist behaviour” was common among contract staff. Asylum seekers said staff behaviour “made them feel like ‘animals’ and that they were ‘subhuman’.” Others reported that they felt bullied.</p> <p>The BBC had planned to air testimony from activists and G4S tenants in Yorkshire asserting that tenants who complained had been moved against their will, had been threatened that complaints would damage their claims for asylum. </p> <p>My colleague, housing rights activist Violet Dickenson, had been invited to take part in the programme as a studio guest. She was looking forward to speaking out about the culture of intimidation.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Violetout_Sharonin.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Violetout_Sharonin.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="438" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Out goes activist witness Violet Dickenson. In comes corporate voice Sharon Holmes.</span></span></span></p> <p>But during the weekend before transmission <a href="https://theferret.scot/asylum-seeker-intimidation-g4s/">G4S had lobbied the BBC</a>, invitations were withdrawn, interviews pulled. The film clips of asylum seekers and activists (from the film, The Asylum Market, by <a href="http://www.brass-moustache.co.uk">Brass Moustache</a>, that you can see <a href="https://vimeo.com/201062637">in full here</a>) were binned. Instead of Violet Dickenson’s live testimony about intimidation, the programme ran a pre-recorded interview with Sharon Holmes, G4S head of business, who dismissed some of the evidence in the MPs’ report as “anecdotal”.</p> <h2>Missing the boat</h2> <p>As for the MPs’ call for a complete overhaul of the contracting system, it was weaker than it appeared. For that ship had already sailed.</p> <p>Since 2012 Home Office accommodation has been provided to asylum seekers by companies —&nbsp;G4S, Serco and Clearsprings — their subcontractors, and hundreds of small private landlords,&nbsp;through what’s known as COMPASS contracts (an acronym for Commercial and Operational Managers Procuring Asylum Support Services). The contracts, worth <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmhaff/71/71vw32008_HC71_01_VIRT_HomeAffairs_ASY-57.htm">a reported £1.7 billion</a> over five years, had been due to expire in 2017 —&nbsp;unless the government exercised its option for a two year extension.</p> <p>“Before the Home Secretary signs the next contract, the committee will have things to say,” the then committee chair Keith Vaz MP had <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-35848080">told BBC Scotland</a> back in March 2016. “So, we will conclude our inquiry in plenty of time for the Home Secretary to be able to reflect on it before she signs the new contracts.”</p> <p>That didn’t happen. Instead, the report’s publication was delayed. And delayed. </p> <p>By 8 December 2016, and still no sign of the report, the government quietly issued a <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Lords/2016-12-08/HLWS333/">written ministerial statement</a> confirming that the Home Office had extended the existing contracts, <em>and</em> that it was going to pay more —&nbsp;though not how much. “I have increased the amount of money that the Home Office pays for the provision of welfare officers and staff property management,” wrote immigration minister Robert Goodwill. </p> <p>As for five years’ compelling evidence of rats, cockroaches, racism and intimidation,<strong> </strong>Goodwill wrote mildly: “There has been considerable interest in the accommodation and support that is provided to asylum seekers,” and he had “listened carefully” to concerns.</p><h2><span style="font-weight: bold;">“Considerable interest”</span></h2> <p>What does “considerable interest” look like?</p> <p>It looks like this:</p> <p>Asylum seekers “are treated as luggage rather than people who deserve some dignity and respect. Government must get to grips with that with housing contractors.” </p> <p>That was Sarah Teather MP in the foreword to her <a href="http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/tcs/asylum_support_inquiry_report_final.pdf">Parliamentary inquiry report</a> in January 2013: “Racial abuse and victimisation at the hands of members of the public were striking enough, but more shocking for us were the examples of abject disregard for basic human dignity demonstrated by housing providers.” </p> <p>A <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/home-affairs-committee/inquiries/parliament-2010/asylum/">Home Affairs committee report</a> later that year noted: “We were very concerned by the description of the substandard level of housing provided to asylum seekers.”</p> <p>In January 2014 the <a href="https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/10287-001-accommodation-for-asylum-seekers-Book.pdf">National Audit Office reported</a>: “Both G4S and Serco took on housing stock without inspecting it . . . many of the properties they had taken on did not meet the contractual quality standards.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><div width="100%"><iframe frameborder="0" height="300" width="100%" src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/201062637"></iframe></div><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://vimeo.com/201062637">The Asylum Market</a> from <a href="https://vimeo.com/brassmoustache">Brass Moustache Films</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/news/asylum-accommodation-substantive/">Public Accounts Committee followed up in April 2014:</a> “The standard of the accommodation provided was often unacceptably poor and the providers failed to improve quality in a timely manner.” And: “Contractors have remained slow in providing decent accommodation for a very vulnerable group of people.”</p><h2>Red doors and a Taliban room-mate</h2> <p>In February 2016 Stephen Doughty, Labour MP for Cardiff South &amp; Penarth, secured a <a href="https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm160210/halltext/160210h0001.htm">debate in Westminster Hall</a>: “We appear to have a situation in which the Home Office is contracting a small number of companies to place highly vulnerable people — often, it seems, in crowded or unsuitable accommodation — in a very small number of areas in a small group of dispersal centres and cities, and frequently in areas of low rents and deprivation,” he said.</p> <p>Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, reported: “A young man in my community who is gay and who has come to this country is having to share a bedroom with somebody who was once a member of the Taliban.”</p> <p>Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East, SNP) said: “We have had refugee houses easily identifiable by the colour of the door; stories of humiliation and harassment caused by the requirement for refugees in Cardiff to wear coloured wristbands; and a level of overcrowding that would be more appropriate in the slums of the 1900s, not the 21st century. It is clear to me that the system is broken, not just in one location and not just with one provider. That is why the Scottish National Party is calling for an urgent inquiry<span style="font-size: 1.2em;">.”</span></p> <p>But that didn't happen.</p><p>Labour’s Keir Starmer, MP for Holborn and St Pancras, said: “There is now a short period until most of the contracts come up for renewal, so now is the time for a review to be carried out so that whatever mistakes were made in the past can be avoided in the future. I think some contracts will expire in 2017, with a possible two-year extension clause, so time is of the essence.” </p> <p>He said that lately: “I spent the whole day in Oldham, and in the end I came away with the conclusion that the only reason why more than 600 asylum seekers were there was because the unit price per head of accommodating them was lower there than anywhere else.” </p> <p>Starmer went on: “I lend my support to the call for a review. There is now a window of opportunity.”</p> <p>As we’ve seen, that window slammed shut in December 2016 when the Home Office extended the contracts.</p><h2>MPs in the dark</h2> <p>During the Westminster Hall debate, Alex Cunningham, the Labour MP for Stockton North, highlighted the matter of secrecy, how MPs are kept in the dark about how the companies carve up all that public money.</p> <p>“We must make the companies involved more accountable to the taxpayer,” Cunningham said. “Private companies that deliver public services, such as G4S and Jomast, are exempt from the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act. The Information Commissioner has no power to investigate private contractors.” He went on: “It is nigh on impossible to get our hands on the details of much of what private companies are up to with public money. Accountability must not stop where private sector involvement starts.”</p><h2>Criminal investigation into G4S and Serco</h2> <p>Lack of transparency isn’t the only problem. Both G4S and Serco were caught out “overbilling” the taxpayer under contracts for monitoring offenders — <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/ellie-butt/g4s-serco-fraud-oops-we-couldnt-tell-difference-between-right-and-wrong">the tagging scandal</a>. Both had charged the Ministry of Justice for applying electronic tags to ex-offenders who were not being tagged. Some were in prison. Others were dead. Serco <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/taxpayer-compensated-for-overcharging-as-cross-government-contracts-review-concludes">agreed to pay £68.5m back</a>. G4S tried to get away with <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/supportservices/10528322/G4S-probe-deepens-as-tagging-scandal-costs-Serco-68m.html">paying back £24.1 million</a> but eventually agreed on nearly £110 million. The <a href="https://www.sfo.gov.uk/cases/g4s-serco-2/">Serious Fraud Office</a> has had both companies under criminal investigation since November 2013. Information supplied by the SFO prompted the Financial Reporting Council in June last year to open another investigation —&nbsp;into <a href="https://www.frc.org.uk/News-and-Events/FRC-Press/Press/2016/June/Investigation-into-the-preparation,-approval-and-a.aspx">Deloitte’s handling of Serco’s accounts</a>. </p> <p>During “emergency talks” with the Home Office in December 2015, G4S and Serco <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/79c0bf80-a70b-11e5-955c-1e1d6de94879">used the financial press</a> to air their concerns about the losses they claimed to be making on the Compass contracts. That summer Serco boss Rupert Soames had used an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s business programme The Bottom Line to almost boast that over five years Serco would lose&nbsp; £115 million on the Compass contracts. “The taxpayer presumably is smiling,” he said.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/FinancialTimescontracts.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/FinancialTimescontracts.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="469" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Financial Times features 'struggling' outsourcers, 23 December 2015</span></span></span></p> <p>At the Home Affairs Committee hearing on 13 September 2016, Soames told MPs: “The reasons why the contracts are losing money for us are varied. One is that we under-bid. The price was too low. I have to say that a system of reverse Dutch auction conducted over the internet may not be the best way to establish pricing for a contract to provide care to tens of thousands of people.” </p> <p>He said the other reason was an increase in the numbers of asylum seekers.</p> <p>David Winnick MP asked Soames for a copy of Serco’s contract with its subcontractor Orchard &amp; Shipman. Soames replied: “No, sir, I do not think that would be appropriate.”</p> <p>The National Audit Office in <a href="https://www.nao.org.uk/report/memorandum-role-major-contractors-delivery-public-services-2/">November 2013</a> issued a warning about the “crisis of confidence in contracting out of public services: “There is currently a lack of transparency over the role that contractors play, the business that they do, the rewards that they make and the way that they perform.”</p> <p>The NAO explained: “It is difficult to isolate the profit relating solely to their public-sector work. They (the contractors) rarely separate out their public-sector work as part of their segmental reporting. The government only has access to information on the profits contractors make where ‘open book arrangements’ are written into contracts.” Such open book arrangements do not apply to the Compass contracts.</p> <h2>Turning the tide</h2> <p>At a public meeting in Sheffield in 2012, when people learned that G4S had been given the asylum housing contracts, an asylum tenant from Zimbabwe stood up and said: “I don’t want a prison guard as my landlord.”</p> <p>Remember the executive sent to defend G4S’s reputation on the Victoria Derbyshire show? John Whitwam’s expertise is not in housing, nor human rights, nor the asylum system.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/John_Whitwam-BBC-Derbyshire.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/John_Whitwam-BBC-Derbyshire.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="286" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>G4S executive John Whitwam on the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme</span></span></span></p> <p>He’s a military man. As Lt Col John Whitwam he served as commanding officer, Royal Fusiliers. Then, after a brief go at investment banking —&nbsp;at Barclays, according to <a href="https://uk.linkedin.com/in/johnwhitwam">his LinkedIn profile</a>,&nbsp;he moved into soldiering-for-profit, as commercial director at Pilgrims Group, before joining G4S, the world’s biggest security company, and becoming “managing director immigration and borders”.</p><p>Asylum housing doesn’t belong in the private security industry and its Asylum Market.</p> <p>Tenants and rights campaigners did find some things to welcome in the Home Affairs Committee report. We in Yorkshire had already pushed our local councils to ban the forced sharing of bedrooms. The MPs recommended: “That forced bedroom sharing be phased out across the asylum estate as a whole and that the use of large scale HMO’s (Houses in Multiple Occupation) be reduced.”</p> <p>And . . . The MPs recommended that future contracts should involve local councils and the devolved nations, and voluntary organisations in deciding on and scrutinising local, and regional contracts for the provision of asylum housing. </p> <p>Asylum rights campaigners will seize on these recommendations to turn the tide against privatisation and intimidation, take asylum housing out of the market and put it back where it belongs, in public hands.</p> <p><br /><em> Asylum-seekers’ names have been changed.</em></p><p><em>See also Kate Smith at The Conversation: "<a href="https://theconversation.com/despite-repeated-failings-private-firms-continue-to-run-asylum-housing-70949">Despite repeated failings, private firms continue to run asylum housing".</a></em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/welcome-to-my-asylum-home-i-d-offer-you-seat-if-i-had-one">Welcome to my asylum home. I’d offer you a seat — if I had one</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/rats-in-yard-4-years-of-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">Rats in the yard: 4 years of UK asylum housing by G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-promises-again-to-repaint-asylum-seeker-red-doors-and-reloc">G4S promises (again) to repaint asylum seeker red doors and relocate families at risk</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/ellie-butt/g4s-serco-fraud-oops-we-couldnt-tell-difference-between-right-and-wrong">G4S &amp; Serco fraud: Oops, we couldn&#039;t tell the difference between right and wrong</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seekers-with-red-doors-are-still-being-targeted-by-racis">Asylum seekers with red doors are still being targeted by racists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/bed-bugs-and-freight-sheds-britain-s-welcome-to-asylum-seekers">Bed bugs and freight sheds: Britain’s welcome to asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/one-bath-for-12-women-and-11-babies-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">One bath for 12 women and 11 babies: UK asylum housing by G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/destitution-intimidation-how-britain-shirks-its-obligations-to-asylum-seeke">Destitution, intimidation . . . How Britain shirks its obligations to asylum-seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/five-lessons-britain-must-learn-from-botched-privatisation-of-asylum-housin">Five lessons Britain must learn from the botched privatisation of asylum housing</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/living-with-rats-landlord-g4s">Living with rats. Landlord G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/britains-botched-privatisation-of-asylum-housing">Britain&#039;s botched privatisation of asylum housing</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Thu, 16 Feb 2017 09:00:59 +0000 John Grayson 108799 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Welcome to my asylum home. I’d offer you a seat — if I had one https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/welcome-to-my-asylum-home-i-d-offer-you-seat-if-i-had-one <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Meanwhile a parliamentary inquiry into asylum housing lumbers on over ten months . . . and today in Leeds the Home Office holds yet another 'consultation' on a sorry business.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/preparing-lunch-on-floorBRIGHT.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/preparing-lunch-on-floorBRIGHT.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jayne chops vegetables on a tray on her kitchen mat (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>Jayne is on her knees, chopping vegetables on a tray on her kitchen mat. Jayne has no table or chairs. She and her two young children have lived in this squalid house in Sheffield for two weeks. Their landlord is the international security company G4S which holds part of a £620m government contract to house asylum seekers.</p> <p>“I cannot stay here, it is not safe for my children.” Jayne is crying. She points to her storage ‘cupboard’. There’s shelving around steep, filthy and unguarded stairs that lead to cellar. The cellar is full of rubbish.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Dangerous_dirty_stairs_cellar_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Dangerous_dirty_stairs_cellar_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jayne's cellar steps (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>Sam is Jayne’s lively four-year old son. “Sam is ill all the time,” Jayne tells me. “It is because of the dirty house.” Sam has already fallen down the steep bedroom stairs — when the handrail came away from the wall.</p> <p>Debbie, a volunteer social worker, tells me: “I first came across Jayne and her family in a refugee hotel in Dunquerque. We spent months persuading the British authorities that the family had relatives in the UK and was entitled to claim asylum here.”</p> <p>Through an interpreter Jayne, in tears, says: “Travelling from Turkey my husband and my other daughter went missing, I don’t know where they are. </p> <p>“When I arrived I was given £90 for each of us, that was in August. I have received nothing for nearly three months. Friends and my relatives around Sheffield give me food, and support us. G4S promise to get me a payment and I am waiting for the post every day.”</p> <h2>A typical G4S house </h2> <p>In late October I inspect the house — typical of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/john-grayson">dozens of G4S houses</a> I have seen in Yorkshire over the past few years — rundown, dirty and neglected. Debbie has already protested about Jayne’s dangerous cooker and the National Grid man has capped off the gas pipe.</p> <p>“He told me G4S should be ashamed to put the family in with that cooker, he said that there had been a serious house gas explosion in the recent past in the area.”</p> <p>Jayne gave me a letter confirming that a dangerous gas appliance notice had been served on G4S.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/National_Grid_noticeCROP.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/National_Grid_noticeCROP.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="443" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>I walk around to the back of the house, where Sam might play. There’s a blocked drain, a broken-down fence and a passage leading directly on to the street with the door missing.&nbsp;</p> <p>Debbie had told me that Jayne was desperate about Sam’s safety. “Her fifteen-year-old, Marie, cannot understand why she has to keep security gates shut for Sam.” Both children have learning difficulties. Jayne tells me she must carry Sam around on her back up and down stairs. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Jayne_carry_SamOBSCURE.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Jayne_carry_SamOBSCURE.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jayne carries Sam down the stairs (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>As I am leaving Jayne answers to a knock on the door — it is a G4S delivery of table, chairs and a new cooker — Debbie’s protests have worked. </p> <p>The house is still dangerous for Sam and I have written to G4S warning them that they must provide safe accommodation now or risk a legal challenge to safeguard the human rights of Sam and Marie.</p> <p>Legal action may be the only way to make Sam safe. On 7 November the Red Cross wrote to Paul Bilbao, head of Asylum Support Contracts and Compliance at the Home Office in Leeds giving details of my inspection of Jayne’s house and a further Red Cross visit detailing dangers to Sam and his sister, and the urgent need for the family to be moved. On 10 November a reply came from Lee-Anne Prince, the Home Office specialist for ‘safeguarding children’ in asylum housing in Yorkshire.</p> <p>She wrote:&nbsp;“I have spoken to G4S and we are intending to visit the property in the next few weeks after which I will come back to you.”</p><h2><span>Breaches of contract</span></h2> <p>According to its Home Office contract G4S must supply accommodation that is safe, habitable, fit for purpose, and correctly equipped and furnished, and G4S must “provide accommodation for disabled persons that is fit for purpose…in compliance with relevant law.”</p> <p>Jayne’s furniture and a safe cooker should have been in the house before G4S moved the family in — one more breach of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/john-grayson/rats-in-yard-4-years-of-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">COMPASS asylum housing contract</a> requirements. </p> <p>Working alongside asylum seekers over the past five years I have uncovered hundreds of such breaches. </p> <p>This past year other campaigners, local councils and groups of asylum tenants and refugees have sent <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/home-affairs-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/asylum-accommodation/publications/">written evidence</a> about asylum housing, just like Jayne’s, to the Home Affairs Committee’s (HAC) Inquiry into asylum housing.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Cellar_head_larder_filthy_stairs_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Cellar_head_larder_filthy_stairs_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jayne's cellar-head 'larder' (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>The Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS) interviewed 76 asylum-housing tenants, and <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/asylum-accommodation/written/37481.html">told the committee</a> that asylum seekers reported unsanitary conditions, dampness and cold, electrical and heating faults. One person told the researchers that the heating timer was set to turn off from Friday to Monday, and therefore there would be no heating in the house over the weekend. Another said they were left without heating for weeks on end.</p> <p>The <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/asylum-accommodation/written/36555.html">Welsh Refugee Coalition evidence</a> states: “Housing is a major problem for many asylum seekers ...the housing provided was often inadequate, degrading, shameful and unhygienic.”</p> <p>Bradford City of Sanctuary investigated <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/asylum-accommodation/written/37950.html">twenty-five cases</a> and reported that: </p> <p>“fifteen directly referred to the cleanliness of the housing, which includes dusty carpets, mice infested kitchens, water leaking from walls, poor odours and mite damage. A number…did not have fully functioning central heating and boilers”.</p> <p><a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/asylum-accommodation/written/37951.html">Bradford City Council</a> had responded to complaints from asylum housing tenants.</p> <p>“The Council’s housing standards team inspected a number of HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) properties…and found that within each property similar deficiencies were repeatedly present such as; rodent infestations, damp, failure to meet…standards in terms of fire safety, external yards/gardens were overgrown.”</p> <h2>Jessica: blood and mice</h2> <p>Reading the evidence, I’m reminded of a G4S house in Leicester I visited recently. There I listen to Jessica, who arrived from the Middle East in July. </p> <p>She was allocated a room in a filthy G4S house. The mattress of her bed was stained with blood.</p> <p>After protests from the Red Cross she was moved to another house in Leicester…this time infested with mice.</p> <p>“I am terrified of the mice in my bedroom,” she tells me. “I cannot sleep.” Jessica shows me the mouse-traps and poison she has bought for her room. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Jessica_bedroom_rodent_control.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Jessica_bedroom_rodent_control.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jessica attempts rodent control (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>Two other women in the house, young asylum seekers from Africa, tell me of other problems. Dawn said: &nbsp;</p> <p>“This house was without heating and hot water for nearly a month, we were boiling kettles to have a bath. The G4S man said that we should not switch the boiler off because it will not come back on…we live with a noisy boiler in this overheated kitchen now.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Buckets_hand_washing_clothes.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Buckets_hand_washing_clothes.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Buckets for hand-washing clothes (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>Dawn had been in the house for two years. “Our washing machine kept leaking and was never repaired properly — then G4S left us without a washing machine for six months — they told us to wash our clothes by hand.” Dawn pointed to the buckets they had bought to do the washing.</p> <h2>Ken – two years with rats</h2> <p>Rodents are a common feature in G4S housing. In Sheffield I talked with Ken, who showed me a window in his kitchen. “My wife had nightmares when she saw the rats out there so we put tape on the window,” he said. Ken arrived from the Middle East two years ago with his wife and twenty-year-old daughter.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Kenkitchen_window.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Kenkitchen_window.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ken's kitchen window (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>“We saw the house and said we would not live there, the G4S man said that there were plenty of English people living under bridges and that we could join them if we refused the house.” </p> <p>Ken and his family have complained about the rats on at least six occasions over the past two years. The G4S notice in the house says the pest control staff came in mid-September but Ken tells me the rats are still about. </p> <p>And that’s not all.</p> <p>Ken told me: “Young people came every night throwing stones at the house and calling racist names.” The police were called, but still G4S would not move the family to safe accommodation.</p> <p>Asylum seekers in Northern Ireland reported racist treatment from their landlords —&nbsp;the property company Orchard &amp; Shipman, subcontractors to Serco. The Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers expressed alarm that “derogatory and racist behaviour” was common among Orchard &amp; Shipman staff.</p> <p>The Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS) <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/asylum-accommodation/written/37481.html">reported to the Home Affairs Committee</a> that a majority of asylum seekers said staff behaviour “made them feel like ‘animals’ and that they were ‘subhuman’. Others reported that they felt ‘bullied’.”</p> <h2>What next for asylum housing?</h2> <p>Campaigners for better conditions for asylum seekers in accommodation provided by the Home Office contractors G4S, Serco and Clearel (Clearsprings) have had some success. Scottish Refugee Council’s work &nbsp;alongside asylum housing tenants in Glasgow has resulted in <a href="http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14759915.Under_fire_housing_firm_says_move_away_from_asylum_seeker_home_management_is_not_because_of_complaints/">Serco dropping Orchard &amp; Shipman from the contracts in Scotland</a>. In the North East rumours circulate that G4S is planning to drop its sole contractor there, Jomast Developments, the company that achieved front page coverage in The Times for painting asylum seekers’ doors red.</p> <p>While the Home Affairs Committee prepares its report on these matters, the Home Office continues to negotiate with G4S, Serco and Clearel (Clearsprings) to extend the contract for two more years until 2019.</p> <p>Since the contractors came on board in June 2012, there have been four significant inquiries, featuring asylum housing in Parliament, the Children’s’ Society Parliamentary panel in 2013, a Home Affairs Committee inquiry in 2013, a Public Accounts Committee inquiry in 2014 and the current Home Affairs Committee inquiry. </p> <p>In 2016 G4S was fined £5.6m for the standard of the housing it provided in 2013/14. Despite all that, regardless of persistently negative media coverage and asylum tenants’ tenacious resistance and solidarity campaigning, still, G4S, Serco and Clearel hold the contract. Indeed, the Home Office is currently negotiating a contract extension with its ‘commercial partners’.</p> <p>In any normal commercial setting a contractor producing such shoddy work might quickly find themselves off the job. </p> <p>Why does the government tolerate this? Is it because substandard accommodation is exactly what the government wants for asylum seekers? This is one of the questions I'll put to the Home Office today in Leeds at their 'consultation' on future asylum housing contracts.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Note: Jayne, Sam, Marie, Jessica, Dawn and Ken are pseudonyms.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/rats-in-yard-4-years-of-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">Rats in the yard: 4 years of UK asylum housing by G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-promises-again-to-repaint-asylum-seeker-red-doors-and-reloc">G4S promises (again) to repaint asylum seeker red doors and relocate families at risk</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seekers-with-red-doors-are-still-being-targeted-by-racis">Asylum seekers with red doors are still being targeted by racists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/bed-bugs-and-freight-sheds-britain-s-welcome-to-asylum-seekers">Bed bugs and freight sheds: Britain’s welcome to asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-for-asylum-seekers-mps-grill-one-of-britain-s-richest">Red doors for asylum seekers: MPs grill one of Britain’s richest landlords</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-made-asylum-seekers-targets-for-abuse-deliberate">Red doors made asylum seekers targets for abuse. Deliberate?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/barbara-tagged-and-monitored-like-criminal">Barbara, tagged and monitored like a criminal</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Fri, 18 Nov 2016 08:39:00 +0000 John Grayson 106909 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Rats in the yard: 4 years of UK asylum housing by G4S https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/rats-in-yard-4-years-of-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today, yet again, a Parliamentary committee will hear how commercial landlords are failing asylum seeker tenants. And then what?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/P1010330.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/P1010330.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jean's back yard (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>A few days ago I was chatting with Jean, the mother of three small children, in the back yard of her Sheffield home.</p> <p>Jean pointed to rat poison boxes, the fence gnawed by rats. “My children cannot play here, they are frightened of the rats,” she said. </p> <p>Jean (not her real name) is an asylum seeker from North Africa. She finished a degree in England last summer. Her home has water leaks, unsafe flooring, and damp walls which had holes in them, back in April, when the family moved in. The house is managed under a government contract by the world’s largest security company, G4S.</p> <h2>Unity and social justice</h2> <p>On the day that Home Secretary Theresa became Prime Minister, she stood on the steps of Number 10 Downing Street and proclaimed her ‘mission’. &nbsp;It was “to make Britain a country that works for everyone”. She spoke of “social justice”. She spoke of the union, not just between the countries of the United Kingdom, “but between all of our citizens, every one of us, whoever we are and wherever we are from”.</p> <p>Remember that: “Everyone of us, wherever we are from.”</p> <p>In late July <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alanwhite/exclusive-g4s-to-take-over-vital-government-discrimination-s?utm_term=.krPMWl2kN#.ak1JeMrxQ">the UK government named the company</a> that would run a helpline for people who have faced discrimination on the grounds of their sex, race or disability. The company? G4S.</p> <p>Did it matter that G4S is well known for the “unhealthy culture” and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">“endemic racism”</a> noted by the coroner at the inquest into the death of Jimmy Mubenga, an asylum seeker “unlawfully killed” by G4S?</p> <p>Did it matter that G4S had recently been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/may/05/moj-to-take-over-medway-child-jail-from-g4s">stripped of a contract</a> to run <a href="http://www.cypnow.co.uk/cyp/childrens-rights-blog/1158565/secure-training-centres-in-numbers">Medway</a> children’s prison after revelations of abuse of young people, abuse which had prevailed in secure training centres <a href="https://policypress.co.uk/children-behind-bars">for many years</a>? </p> <p>Apparently not.</p> <p>Over the past four years the Home Office, under Theresa May, has come under relentless criticism for the quality of asylum housing. There was the &nbsp;Children’s Society parliamentary inquiry in early 2013, the Home Affairs select committee inquiry in 2013, the Public Accounts Committee inquiry in 2014 —&nbsp;all reported on “atrocious” asylum housing conditions. G4S and Serco were fined £5.6m for this fundamental breach of the contract in 2012/13.</p> <p>Back in 2013, Zoe Williams asked in the Guardian, “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/12/g4s-serious-failure-government">just how bad does G4S need to get before it loses government contracts?</a>” </p> <p>Something for parliamentary Home Affairs committee to consider when it resumes hearings on the G4S, Serco and Clearsprings asylum housing contracts on Tuesday 13 September. </p> <h2>Hostile environment</h2><p>Lately I’ve been talking with Angela. She was a G4S asylum tenant in 2012. I wrote then about how <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/cockroach-in-baby%E2%80%99s-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s">she had found cockroaches in her baby son's bottle</a> and slugs in the carpets. Now a refugee settled in Leeds, Angela (not her real name) said: “I am really shocked G4S still has that asylum housing contract, they have ruined the early months and years of so many children.”</p> <p>In May 2012, Theresa May, then Home Secretary, told the Telegraph: “The aim is to create here in Britain <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/9291483/Theresa-May-interview-Were-going-to-give-illegal-migrants-a-really-hostile-reception.html">a really hostile environment</a> for illegal migration.”</p><p>The following month, G4S, along with Serco and the smaller Reliance security company (in partnership with Clearsprings housing company), were handed the £620m contract for housing people awaiting the outcome of their asylum claims. At the time, this was the largest contract ever given by the Home Office.</p> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/john-grayson">Over four years</a>, working alongside asylum seekers, I have witnessed and reported on the “hostile environment”. I have seen its devastating impact on vulnerable lives.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/__BESTjohn closeup with reporter inside out_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/__BESTjohn closeup with reporter inside out_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>John Grayson, BBC TV Inside Out programme March 2015</span></span></span></p> <p>Catherine Tshezi, who was dumped in a G4S/Jomast <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/g4s-jomast-stockton-hostel-and-the-mother-and-baby-market/">‘mother and baby’ hostel in Stockton</a> in 2012, weeks after giving birth, said about her experience there: “This really goes to show that the asylum seekers are not respected. We are all human beings and we deserve respect and dignity.”</p> <p><a href="http://www.refugeewomen.co.uk/uncategorized/mother-and-baby-face-eviction/">Cha Matty</a>, a whistle-blower who exposed conditions in the hostel in the Guardian and before a parliamentary inquiry told me: “They simply want to make profits out of us, they show us no respect.” </p> <p>When I interviewed her in 2012 she had been in the hostel with her toddler son for over a year. She said she was “shocked and disappointed at how we have been treated by the powers that be. How inhuman they are treating us, and we are just numbers for them in making a profit which is very unfair and sad”.</p> <p>It’s 2016 and I am still visiting <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/john-grayson/bed-bugs-and-freight-sheds-britain-s-welcome-to-asylum-seekers">squalid G4S asylum properties in Yorkshire</a>. In March, The Times reported on allegedly <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/scotland/article4717097.ece">“horrific”</a> asylum housing supplied by Serco in Glasgow, and Clearsprings in London. On 2 August the Guardian reported: </p> <p>“There are currently <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/aug/02/dozens-of-asylum-seekers-crammed-into-single-home-office-property">18 women and 15 children living in the property</a> in Hounslow, which is two terrace houses knocked together …. Residents have complained of infestations of rats in the kitchen, bedbugs and slugs, filthy conditions, leaks, naked wires left exposed and periodic infestations of cockroaches.”</p> <h2>Good enough for an asylum seeker</h2> <p>Stuart Monk is owner and managing director of Jomast, a property company based in the north east of England, that “strives to relentlessly pursue improvement in all aspects of its business” according to <a href="http://www.jomast.co.uk/about-us/strategy-visions-values/">its publicity material</a>.</p> <p>In January 2016 The Times accused Jomast of creating <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4669721.ece">“apartheid on the streets of Britain”</a> by painting asylum seekers doors red, and Monk was called before the Home Affairs Select Committee. He said memorably that the homes he provided were <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-for-asylum-seekers-mps-grill-one-of-britain-s-richest-landlord">“a product suitable for an asylum seeker”</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/STUART MONK-this one.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/STUART MONK-this one.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="272" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stuart Monk of Jomast, Home Affairs Committee, January 2016</span></span></span></p> <p>Rupert Soames, grandson of Winston Churchill and CEO of Serco, in June 2015 told BBC Radio 4’s cheerleading business programme ‘The Bottom Line’ that the new outsourcing market: “makes Britain now to public service provision what Silicon Valley is to IT”.</p> <h2>The winners</h2><p>In the first three months of 2016 new public sector contracts <a href="https://www.arvato.com/content/dam/arvato/documents/reports/studies/arvato_UK_outsourcing_index_Q1_2016_main_infographic.pdf">worth £1.35 billion</a> were announced in the UK – sixty five per cent of all outsourced contracts.</p> <p>In a close and cosy world, outsourcing companies provide well paid positions to former politicians and other prominent public figures. In 2009, John Reid, while still a serving Member of Parliament, took a <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmregmem/090624/memi23.htm">£50,000-a-year “consultancy” role at G4S</a>. They made him a director —&nbsp;from July 2010 until April 2013. And Reid, a former Labour Home and Defence Secretary has continued to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/woolwich-lord-reid-security-industrys-salesman">promote the security industry’s wares</a> in the House of Lords.</p> <p>G4S board members have included Lord Condon, former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Adam Crozier, head of ITV. Current chairman <a href="http://www.gosh.org/about-us/leadership-and-governance/trustees">John Connolly</a>, once Britain’s highest paid accountant —&nbsp;at Deloitte — also chairs the board at the Great Ormond Street Hospital charity, and was an advisor to Mayor of London Boris Johnson. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/P1010327.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/P1010327.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Fence gnawed by rats in Jean's back yard (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>The Telegraph in April 2016 estimated that in 2011/2012 the Home Office spent £150million providing accommodation for asylum seekers, in 2014/15 it is <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/24/rich-list-asylum-king-who-houses-migrants-in-budget-hotels-enter/">thought to be closer to £200million</a>. </p> <p>Stuart Monk, owner of G4S contractor Jomast is reported to be worth £175m. </p><p>James Vyvyan Robinson CEO of Clearsprings, formerly of G4S, has an annual salary of more than £200,000. Graham King, the founder and chairman of Clearsprings, trousered £960,000 from the company in 2014. </p><p>Alex Langsam, founder of Britannia Hotels, twice voted <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-2809363/Britannia-Hotels-named-worst-chain-UK-according-holidaymakers-Sofitel-Premier-Inn-given-honours.html#ixzz4FXZU6NNs">the worst hotel chain</a> in Which? Polls, this year entered <a href="http://tdi.tagmedia.co.uk/NITL/TT_AND_ST_BRAND/RICH_LIST_2016/APR16_LANDING_PAGE/109052117_/OUTPUT_FILES/HTML_v3/index.html">The Sunday Times rich list</a> with an estimated personal fortune of £220m. Langsam has <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/24/rich-list-asylum-king-who-houses-migrants-in-budget-hotels-enter/">been dubbed ‘The Asylum King’</a> after securing contracts in 2014 to house refugees in 17 of his budget hotels and making a profit of £14m for the company. </p> <p>Over the past few months, along with other members of SYMAAG, an asylum rights group, I have been attending small ‘hearings’ in Yorkshire held to collect evidence for the Home Affairs Committee from G4S asylum housing tenants. The evidence continues to reveal a picture of filthy properties, G4S staff invading the privacy of tenants’ homes, and vulnerable and traumatised tenants being neglected.</p> <p>Tenants attending the hearings and the many tenants I have worked alongside over the past four years have had the courage to raise their voices against the disrespect and abuse they have faced in their asylum homes. Will the peoples representatives take action this time? Will they force G4S, Serco and Clearsprings off the asylum housing contract? If not, why not?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-promises-again-to-repaint-asylum-seeker-red-doors-and-reloc">G4S promises (again) to repaint asylum seeker red doors and relocate families at risk</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seekers-with-red-doors-are-still-being-targeted-by-racis">Asylum seekers with red doors are still being targeted by racists</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/bed-bugs-and-freight-sheds-britain-s-welcome-to-asylum-seekers">Bed bugs and freight sheds: Britain’s welcome to asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-for-asylum-seekers-mps-grill-one-of-britain-s-richest">Red doors for asylum seekers: MPs grill one of Britain’s richest landlords</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/barbara-tagged-and-monitored-like-criminal">Barbara, tagged and monitored like a criminal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/toddlers-rats-asbestos-g4s-asylum-seekers-landlord">Toddlers, rats, asbestos. G4S, asylum seekers’ landlord</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/one-bath-for-12-women-and-11-babies-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">One bath for 12 women and 11 babies: UK asylum housing by G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/destitution-intimidation-how-britain-shirks-its-obligations-to-asylum-seeke">Destitution, intimidation . . . How Britain shirks its obligations to asylum-seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/britains-botched-privatisation-of-asylum-housing">Britain&#039;s botched privatisation of asylum housing</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Tue, 13 Sep 2016 07:00:00 +0000 John Grayson 105297 at https://www.opendemocracy.net G4S promises (again) to repaint asylum seeker red doors and relocate families at risk https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-promises-again-to-repaint-asylum-seeker-red-doors-and-reloc <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Four months after 'red doors' scandal broke, security company says it really will stop making asylum seekers’ homes so easy to locate and attack.</p> </div> </div> </div> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">I plan to raise these issues in Parliament again and call for a Home office enquiry <a href="https://t.co/dtWEVXuZrT">https://t.co/dtWEVXuZrT</a></p>— Alex Cunningham (@ACunninghamMP) <a href="https://twitter.com/ACunninghamMP/status/735056046675333120">May 24, 2016</a></blockquote> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>Back in January I helped <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4669721.ece">The Times expose</a> 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. &nbsp;</p> <p>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.</p> <p>There followed multiple media reports in the UK and abroad, parliamentary scrutiny and criticism, and the companies promised to repaint the offending doors swiftly. </p> <p>Juliet Halstead, head of housing at G4S, <a href="http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/robust-system-place-check-asylum-10787801">told the Teesside press on 25 January</a>, that repainting would be carried out “as soon as possible” in both Middlesbrough and Stockton.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seekers-with-red-doors-are-still-being-targeted-by-racists">On Monday</a> 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.</p> <p>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?</p> <p>“<a href="http://www.darlingtonandstocktontimes.co.uk/news/14264576.Red_doors_on_Middlesbrough_asylum_seekers__homes_was__inadvertent___Home_Office_review_concludes/?ref=mr&amp;lp=17">One of the clear recommendations</a> 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.” </p> <p>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” [<a href="http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/0dca3772-f15a-434d-ae59-1ec153372066">video here: 5.31pm to 5.33pm</a>].&nbsp;</p> <p>Yesterday I received the following response from G4S. </p> <p>“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.&nbsp; We have also looked across our estate to confirm that asylum seekers are not identifiable by their door colour.”</p> <p>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:</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/HOUSEMAY2016.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/HOUSEMAY2016.JPG" alt="" title="" width="400" height="533" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>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.”</p> <p>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.”</p> <p>I’m still waiting for a response to that.&nbsp;</p><p>Meanwhile, Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North, prepares to raise the matter in Parliament. Again.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-made-asylum-seekers-targets-for-abuse-deliberate">Red doors made asylum seekers targets for abuse. Deliberate?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-for-asylum-seekers-mps-grill-one-of-britain-s-richest">Red doors for asylum seekers: MPs grill one of Britain’s richest landlords</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seekers-with-red-doors-are-still-being-targeted-by-racis">Asylum seekers with red doors are still being targeted by racists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/toddlers-rats-asbestos-g4s-asylum-seekers-landlord">Toddlers, rats, asbestos. G4S, asylum seekers’ landlord</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">The racist texts. What the Mubenga trial jury was not told</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Wed, 25 May 2016 16:20:00 +0000 John Grayson 102441 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Asylum seekers with red doors are still being targeted by racists https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seekers-with-red-doors-are-still-being-targeted-by-racis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Regardless of government orders and promises to Parliament, UK property company Jomast carries on putting asylum tenants at risk.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/SAFE AS HOUSES.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/SAFE AS HOUSES.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="229" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Safe as houses: red door, repainted door, arson attack door, Friday 20 May 2016</span></span></span></p><p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Asylum seekers living in the north east of England report that they have suffered racist abuse, thanks to their landlord making them an easy target by painting their door red. </p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Their landlord is Stuart Monk, owner of Jomast, one of <a href="http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/who-jomast-urban-regeneration-specialist-10760920">Teesside’s most powerful companies</a>, a company which earned the Monk family £175 million last year.&nbsp;Jomast is the sole sub-contractor for G4S in the North East of England. G4S was given part of the Home Office £620m UK wide COMPASS asylum housing contract in 2012.</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Jomast’s practice of painting asylum seekers’ doors red in Middlesbrough and Teesside was exposed in a &nbsp;<a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4669721.ece">front page story in The Times</a> “Apartheid on Streets of Britain” on 20 January this year. James Brokenshire, the Home Office minister responsible for the COMPASS contracts immediately went to the House of Commons <a href="http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/12cab491-2c5b-4390-80a2-2c4a9e4b03c9?in=12:56:39">and assured MPs</a> that there would be an inquiry into Jomast’s asylum housing and that the doors would be repainted. Jomast boss Stuart Monk said on 26 January, when he was grilled by the parliamentary Home Affairs Committee, it would be done in “two weeks”. </p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">That hasn’t happened.</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">At dawn on Friday 20 May Esmé Madill,&nbsp;a volunteer working with asylum seekers, received a message from James (not his real name), an Iraqi asylum seeker who had fled Isis in Mosul and was now in a Jomast asylum house in Stockton-On-Tees. His house had a red door.</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">James said that “racists at 3.40 a.m. this morning had banged on our door”. The gang were part of a family who, James said, lived “near our house and are very racist, they tried many, many times to bother us because we are asylum seekers.” James said that a friend, a refugee from Darfur, had his house windows broken by stones from the family. “He complained five times about this English family but the police did nothing.”</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">James finished his message: “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.”</p><p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/door pre copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/door pre copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="318" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Red door, Friday 3.15pm</span></span></span></p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">And here it is (left).</p><p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Esmé Madill, who had for months received reports of racist attacks and verbal abuse, rang Barry Jobson of Jomast on Friday afternoon and told him about the latest reports and demanded James and the asylum seekers in his house should be moved from the area.</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">In a follow up&nbsp;e-mail Esmé gave specific examples of the attacks and harassment: “The tenants have called the police on numerous occasions after local residents have: thrown stones at them, breaking windows at the property and hitting the residents; called them abusive names; dumped rubbish at the property and tampered with the keyhole. Recently one resident was accosted for wearing Islamic dress and another was followed, while on his way to his GP, by two youths throwing stones. The police have fitted a camera outside the property but this has not led to any reduction in the racist abuse.”</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Esmé wrote: “The property continues to have a front door painted red, marking it out as a property managed by Jomast and likely to house asylum seekers. I am copying this email to G4S, as on 25 January almost five months ago <a href="http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/robust-system-place-check-asylum-10787801">Juliet Halstead head of housing at G4S</a> &nbsp;said that these red doors would be painted over ‘as soon as possible’”.</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Around 3.30 p.m. on the same afternoon, Friday 20 May, Jomast workers arrived at James’s house and started repainting his door. Police also arrived at the property.</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">A few minutes later Barry Jobson replied to Esmé stating that Jomast were “not aware of any racial abuse” at (that address) and that “the Police have not raised any issues in respect of (that street)”.</p><p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Here (right) is the repainted door.</p><p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/door post copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/door post copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Repainted door, Friday around 4.20pm</span></span></span></p><p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Just after 4 p.m. Nicola Broughton, G4S senior incident control officer responded to Esmé. “I have investigated the claims made and I can confirm that our records show that G4S also have not received any reports of anti-social behaviour or hate crimes in relation to (the address).”</p><p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal">Within hours there was an arson attack on the nearby house occupied by Darfuri refugees.</p><p>When I spoke to Esmé about the events in Stockton she said: “They misled us. Both Jomast and G4S said that they were going to repaint the red doors and they didn’t do it. Their failure to carry out their promises to Parliament has meant that James and other vulnerable people in their home with a red door have been physically attacked, insulted and made very afraid.”</p> <p class="ox-62b229adb1-msonormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/burnt door copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/burnt door copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arson attack door, Friday 11.48pm</span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-for-asylum-seekers-mps-grill-one-of-britain-s-richest">Red doors for asylum seekers: MPs grill one of Britain’s richest landlords</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-made-asylum-seekers-targets-for-abuse-deliberate">Red doors made asylum seekers targets for abuse. Deliberate?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Access to justice Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Sun, 22 May 2016 23:00:05 +0000 John Grayson 102310 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Bed bugs and freight sheds: Britain’s welcome to asylum seekers https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/bed-bugs-and-freight-sheds-britain-s-welcome-to-asylum-seekers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How do the government and its commercial contractors respond to criticism of standards in asylum housing?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/__BESTjohn closeup with reporter inside out_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/__BESTjohn closeup with reporter inside out_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>John Grayson, BBC TV Inside Out programme March 2015</span></span></span></p><p>“The man in the family said they had bed bugs everywhere in the house.” A volunteer in Barnsley, in the north of England, was telling me about conditions in a house provided to asylum seekers by G4S, the world’s biggest security company.</p> <p>The volunteer went on: “The man spoke only a little English but he was really worried about the house and his young wife Jemma (not her real name) and her elderly 76-year-old mother living with the bugs. His mother was frail and slept on the settee or sat on the carpet — with the insects. They had complained to G4S ten days before, and the local G4S worker said they would replace the carpet, but of course the bugs were still around.” </p> <p>So the volunteer complained to G4S: “More than two weeks after the family had gone to them, a G4S team arrived — and took photographs! They said they would return in another ten days.”</p> <p>Are bed bugs such a problem? The volunteer explained: “Bed bugs are a public health risk and bites can directly affect the health of a frail elderly woman. I am getting back on to G4S.” </p> <p>I visited the family myself a few days after that. G4S had at last replaced the carpet, settee, and all the beds in the downstairs flat. Jemma told me: “We have been living with the bugs since December — the flat is now clean, and nice again.” </p> <h2>Welcome to Britain</h2> <p>Over the past few months I have spoken with <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/the-corporate-greed-of-strangers/">asylum seeker families in G4S housing</a> in South Yorkshire, who have spent months in homes infested with mice, endured months without a cooker, months with ceiling leaks, and months with water flooding in from front and back doors. I’ve met a mother who is forced to share a bed in a tiny room with her eight-year-old son. This is what the UK government’s ‘reception policy’ welcoming refugees looks like.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/sharedbed-mum8yrold.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/sharedbed-mum8yrold.JPG" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shared bed for woman and son, aged 8</span></span></span></p> <p>Earlier this year <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-35603952">the BBC</a> and The Times reported shocking allegations about another asylum housing provider, Orchard &amp; Shipman, a Berkshire-based property company working under contract to the outsourcing giant Serco in Glasgow. </p> <p>Asylum seeker tenants have been “kept in <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/scotland/article4693483.ece">dirty and dangerous homes</a>”, the Times reported on 18 February. They had “felt threatened and humiliated”. The allegations include the case of a mother and baby housed in a cockroach-infested property in Glasgow”. The newspaper reports O&amp;S “staff spraying air fresheners at asylum seekers, while laughing and pinching their noses, and an allegation of a man being housed in a property with blood-spattered walls and no lock on the front door.”</p> <p>openDemocracy contacted Orchard &amp; Simpson for comment. “We contracturally can’t say anything —&nbsp;it would have to go through Serco,” said a spokesman. </p> <p>Serco told the BBC: “All property is cleaned prior to residents moving in and checked for compliance with the Home Office requirements.</p> <p>“Every property is also inspected weekly and both Serco and the Home Office conduct random inspections covering at least 20% of all properties every month.</p> <p>“Orchard &amp; Shipman staff are expected to be courteous and respectful at all times.</p> <p>“If any resident is unhappy with the behaviour of staff there is a complaints procedure that residents are briefed on. All complaints are fully investigated and appropriate action taken if required.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The charity Freedom from Torture <a href="http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2016/03/24/the-private-providers-putting-asylum-seekers-slum-housing?utm_source=Editorial+newsletter&amp;utm_campaign=805601e5b2-Newsletter_24_March3_24_2016&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_cb6d3a8c9c-805601e5b2-184942121&amp;mc_cid=805601e5b2&amp;mc_eid=06792ee060">recently reported</a> that conditions in asylum housing had not improved since 2013:</p> <p>“Torture survivors receiving therapy at our centres continue to report unacceptable treatment. This includes allegations of being locked out of their homes, belongings going missing during housing inspections, sexual harassment and physical aggression. In one case, a torture survivor said a contractor even entered their bedroom while they were sleeping.”</p> <h2>A concrete floor in a freight shed</h2> <p>We now know, thanks to <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2016/03/2015-Longport-Dover-Seaport-and-Frontier-web-2015.pdf">a report</a> by Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons, that in the early autumn of 2015 when people made it across the Channel they were detained in Longport freight shed near the Eurotunnel terminus. The Report states that</p> <blockquote><p>“Conditions were wholly unacceptable. Detainees were held overnight and/or for several hours with no clean or dry clothes, no food or hot drinks, and nowhere to sleep other than on a concrete floor. Many had had long and arduous journeys before arrival at Longport. </p><p>Some detainees had not eaten for very long periods and many were hungry. Detainees gestured to us that they were hungry by pointing to their open mouths. </p><p>Detainees arrived with scabies, headaches and other conditions related to dehydration, such as diarrhoea. However, toilet and washing facilities were inadequate and blankets were not washed after each use, presenting obvious health risks. From 31 August to 3 October 2015, a total of 569 detainees were held, including 90 children, most of them unaccompanied. The average length of detention was just under four hours… However, the longest single period of detention was for 21 hours 25 minutes and was of a child…The detention of women and minors in this environment created safeguarding concerns.” </p></blockquote> <p>The company responsible for security at this holding centre is a Capita company <a href="http://www.tascor.co.uk/what-we-do/immigration-and-border/">Tascor</a> working as a contractor for the UK Home Office. Capita are the people who last year <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/revealed-uk-puts-electronic-tags-and-curfews-on-asylum-seekers">tagged an asylum seeker woman in Barnsley</a> G4S housing. They’ve been heavily involved in the Home Office’s <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/go-home-texts-expose-anti-migrant-british-policy-to-world">‘hostile environment’</a> project, texting migrants —&nbsp;and political activists who are longstanding British citizens —&nbsp;telling them to&nbsp;“Go Home” .</p> <p>According to the industry portal Sourcingfocus.com: “<a href="http://www.sourcingfocus.com/site/newsitem/capita_becomes_the_uk_governments_main_supplier_of_2015/">Capita leads the ranking</a> of the British government’s biggest suppliers of the year 2015 with $14.5bn in sales to the UK government.”</p> <h2>A thriving business, or not?</h2> <p>Asylum detention and reception centres, and housing, are now <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/the-corporate-greed-of-strangers/">routinely sold and resold by corporations and companies totally financed from European taxpayers.</a> The Swiss company ORS Service and its reception centres, camps and military bunkers in Switzerland, Austria and Germany have been sold three times since 2005 to private equity companies. </p> <p><a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/how-companies-have-been-exploiting-the-refugee-crisis-for-profit-a6706587.html">Equistone Partners Europe Ltd</a>, a London-based private equity firm linked to Barclay’s Bank that manages $4 billion of funds, bought the business for an undisclosed sum in 2013, touting the acquisition in their annual report as a new opportunity with “<a href="http://www.frontpagemag.com/point/260143/making-money-refugees-all-about-volume-daniel-greenfield">promising organic and acquisitive growth potential</a>”. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/dead mouse_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/dead mouse_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dead mouse, G4S asylum housing, Sheffield 29 March 2016</span></span></span>In the UK, security companies G4S and Serco, and the private housing company Clearsprings are currently negotiating with the UK Home Office to extend their hold on the £620 million COMPASS asylum housing contract they acquired in 2012 – the largest ever private contract given by the Home Office. They are doing this in a growing climate of media and public hostility to the creation of ‘markets’ in sectors of care and protection which have traditionally been the responsibility of government.</p> <p>In rare front page coverage of an under-reported scandal, G4S and its subcontractor Jomast was accused of creating <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4669721.ece">“apartheid on streets of Britain”</a> by painting asylum seekers’ doors red and thus identifying them and leaving them open to attacks. </p> <p>G4S, struck by a BBC Panorama that broadcast apparent bullying, verbal abuse and physical assault by its workers in a child prison —&nbsp;Medway Secure Training Centre – has decided to sell its government contracts.</p> <p>Recent reports in the FT suggest that <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/97e025d6-3128-11e5-91ac-a5e17d9b4cff,Authorised=false.html?siteedition=uk&amp;_i_location=http%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.ft.com%25252Fcms%25252Fs%25252F0%25252F97e025d6-3128-11e5-91ac-a5e17d9b4cff.html">outsourcers running UK immigration centres</a> are losing money. Rupert Soames, CEO of Serco and grandson of Winston Churchill, argued on <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05zyyhx">Radio 4<span>’</span>s The Bottom Line</a> in June 2015 that Serco was set to “lose £115m over the next five years” on their share of the COMPASS contracts, and that they had “raised £700m from shareholders to meet these costs”. When John Whitwam, G4S head of COMPASS and their managing director of immigration and borders, answered questions at the Home Affairs Committee hearing on the ‘red doors’ on the 26 January, he also <a href="http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/0dca3772-f15a-434d-ae59-1ec153372066">claimed that G4S was losing money</a> on its asylum housing saying: “This is a loss making contract…no profits at all.” </p> <p>So who is making money out of the UK’s ‘reception’ policies?</p> <p><a href="http://www.mitie.com/services/specialist-services/custodial-services/immigration-services">Mitie</a> (Management Incentive Through Investment Equity) claims to be “the largest single private sector provider of immigration detention services to the Home Office, less than three years after entering the market”, and it now manages the controversial Harmondsworth and Colnbrook immigration detention centres. In August 2015 MITIE reported <a href="http://corporatewatch.org/news/2015/aug/24/mitie-profits-over-2m-detention-centres-despite-criticisms">an increase in annual profits</a> which the company attributed to the new contracts. The Home Office is handing Mitie £180 million for an eight-year contract to run these centres.</p> <p>Mitie’s <a href="https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2016/02/Harmondsworth-web-2015.pdf">Harmondsworth detention centre</a>, the largest detention centre in Europe, was visited by Peter Clarke the UK prisons inspector in September 2015. He found that</p> <blockquote><p>“Many men were held for short periods but well over half were detained in the centre for over a month and some for very long periods. Eighteen detainees had been held for over a year and one man had been detained on separate occasions adding up to a total of five years.……Some of the newer accommodation was dirty and run down but the condition of some parts of the older units was among the worst in the detention estate; many toilets and showers were in a seriously insanitary condition and many rooms were overcrowded and poorly ventilated. ……Many rooms designed for two were being used for three detainees and some for four, with insufficient furniture. ……Staff told us that there had been insufficient clothing available and some detainees were in ill-fitting clothes; shoes had been in short supply for several weeks and some detainees had only flip-flops.”</p></blockquote> <p>In October 2015, shortly after accepting a Conservative peerage from David Cameron, Mitie CEO Ruby McGregor-Smith gave an interview to the Financial Times. She fondly recalled her years at Serco, and the early 1990s when Margaret Thatcher handed public contracts to commercial contractors. “It was a young industry,” McGregor-Smith <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f70e23c0-65c4-11e5-9846-de406ccb37f2.html#axzz44InkDkhd">told the FT</a>. “It was exciting; there was a sense of limitless potential.”</p> <p>The newspaper reported that McGregor-Smith <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f70e23c0-65c4-11e5-9846-de406ccb37f2.html#axzz43xIV4I00">took £1.5m a year</a> —&nbsp;“more than 100 times the earnings of many of her 70,000 cleaners, carers and security guards, a lot of whom are on the minimum wage”. She took umbrage at the FT reporter’s interest in that.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/7209010536_b5a1aae287_c.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Ruby McGregor-Smith, chief executive, Mitie (Ed Robinson/OneRedEye for Mitie)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/7209010536_b5a1aae287_c.jpg" alt="" title="Ruby McGregor-Smith, chief executive, Mitie (Ed Robinson/OneRedEye for Mitie)" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ruby McGregor-Smith, chief executive, Mitie (Ed Robinson/OneRedEye for Mitie)</span></span></span></p> <p>Rupert Soames of Serco claims that privatisation is profitable. In June 2015 he told <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05zyyhx">Radio 4<span>’s</span>&nbsp;The Bottom Line</a> that the outsourcing market “makes Britain now to public service provision what Silicon Valley is to IT”. </p> <p>In November 2014 Serco were given a further eight years and £70 million by the Home Office to renew their contract to manage Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire despite allegations about abuse, sexual exploitation, rape and self-harm.</p> <p>In March 2015, following revelations of abuse and neglect of women at Yarl’s Wood, the Labour Party’s then shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper declared: “This is <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/mar/03/yarls-wood-may-state-sanctioned-abuse-women">state-sanctioned abuse of women</a> on the home secretary’s watch and it needs to end now.”</p> <p>The Home Office commissioned Stephen Shaw, a former Prisons &amp; Probation Ombudsman, to lead a <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/490783/52532_Shaw_Review_Print_Ready.pdf">Review into the Welfare in Detention of Vulnerable Persons</a> and his report was published in January 2016. Shaw visited the family detention centre known as CEDARS, that is run for the government by G4S and the children’s charity Barnardo’s, and reported: “My overriding impression was of a misdirection of public money that could be better used for other purposes. The centre has had no residents on either of the two occasions I have visited.” </p> <p>He wrote: “the cost per family must be many tens of thousands of pounds, yet up to half are actually released rather than being removed.”</p> <p>He went on: “The current use of the centre is simply unacceptable at a time of financial austerity,” and urged its closure or change of use.</p> <p>The Home Affairs Committee supported Shaw’s <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmhaff/772/77208.htm">call in its report on 4 March</a> calling the level of spending per detainee “outrageous and unsustainable.”</p> <p>In the ‘low security’ markets of asylum housing the Times reckons that G4S contractor Jomast —&nbsp;the company that painted asylum seeker doors red — will trouser £8 million of public funds over the next year for housing 2,646 asylum seekers. Stuart Monk, head of the family firm, has a <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4669604.ece">personal fortune of £175 million.</a> When Monk appeared before the parliamentary Home Affairs Committee on 21 January he defended his business, saying that he was supplying a “product suitable for an asylum seeker”.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/STUART MONK-this onez.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/STUART MONK-this onez.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="272" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stuart Monk of Jomast, Home Affairs Committee, January 2016</span></span></span></p> <p>Two weeks later, on 9 February, the <a href="http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/9dfd0f5a-281f-4a06-8dc4-69e206081134">committee grilled James Vyvyan-Robinson</a>, managing director of Clearsprings, a company which entered the asylum housing business with its partner Reliance Security in 2012 with a £75 million contract for the south of the UK and Wales. </p> <p>Clearsprings forced asylum seekers to wear red wristbands to get food in its centre in Cardiff. Vyvyan-Robinson admitted that his annual salary was over £200,000 despite the ‘small amount’ (a two to three per cent return he claimed) the company made on the contracts. Graham King, the founder and chairman of Clearsprings, had taken <a href="http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/9dfd0f5a-281f-4a06-8dc4-69e206081134">£960,000 from the company in the last financial year</a>. Vyvyan-Robinson had been with Clearsprings for ten years, before which he served as director of business development for Group4 Securicor (G4S), then Reliance Security.</p> <p>Chukka Umunna, MP for Streatham, at the committee hearings, observed that many people would see asylum contracts as a “bit of a racket”.</p> <h2>Scrutiny and transparency</h2> <p>The Home Office revealed to the <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/79c0bf80-a70b-11e5-955c-1e1d6de94879.html">Financial Times</a> late last year that it was negotiating with G4S, Serco and Clearsprings about the option to extend the COMPASS contract for asylum housing for at least two years beyond 2017.</p> <p>These negotiations are taking place behind firmly closed doors. On 20 January SNP Member of Parliament&nbsp; <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm160120/debtext/160120-0001.htm#16012033000007">Stuart McDonald</a> raised the issue of scrutiny, asking: “When will a decision need to be made into the extension of these contracts and what opportunities will there be for parliamentarians to scrutinise and input into that decision?”. (20 Jan 2016 : Column 1429 Hansard)</p> <p>The immigration minister James Brokenshire simply ignored the question.</p> <p>For months McDonald has been calling for an Inquiry into the COMPASS contracts by the Home Affairs Committee of which he is a member. Glasgow and Sheffield City Councils and the Scottish Refugee Council have all called for an inquiry. SNP members signed an <a href="http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2015-16/1156">‘early day motion’ (EDM)</a> in the Westminster parliament on 25 February to this effect.</p> <p>When the Times exposed Jomast’s red doors policy on 20 January it was Brokenshire who ordered an&nbsp; <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4669721.ece">“an urgent audit</a>” of Jomast’s properties in Middlesbrough. </p> <h2>Red doors and whitewash</h2> <p>According to the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/499494/Audit_into_asylum_seeker_accommodation_in_Middlesbrough.pdf">Home Office audit report</a>, the inspection team “discussed incidents of anti-social behaviour and verbal and physical abuse with approximately 60 asylum seekers”. But they accepted the evidence of multimillionaire property develop Stuart Monk, concluding: “It was not a deliberate policy for asylum seeker accommodation to be identifiable by the colour of the doors. This was a consequence of the sub-contractor Jomast painting the doors of many of their properties red, a practice going back 20 years, according to the evidence which Stuart Monk the Owner and Managing Director of Jomast gave to the Home Affairs Select Committee on 26 January.” </p> <p>Never mind that the chair of the Home Affairs committee Keith Vaz had described Stuart Monk’s evidence to the committee as <span>“unsatisfactory”.</span></p> <p>The audit was not an audit of tenants’ repairs and property complaints about the Jomast Middlesbrough asylum housing stock as one might expect. After all, Stuart Monk of Jomast told the Home Affairs Committee when asked to send the complaints to the Committee “There’ll be a lot, there’ll be an enormous number.”&nbsp; [<a href="http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/0dca3772-f15a-434d-ae59-1ec153372066">video here: 5.31pm to 5.33pm</a>]</p><p>Instead, a Home Office team inspected 78 properties over six days and audited paperwork from previous Home Office and Jomast planned inspections. How well did Jomast perform in responding to the ‘enormous number’ of complaints from tenants? We don’t know.</p><p>Brokenshire used his Home Office ‘red doors’ audit to suggest more generally that the contractors for COMPASS were ‘on track’. They were now being fined much less for providing unfit properties under the contract. Only £158,000 in 2014/15 compared with £5.6 m in 2012/13. In fact, wherever activists monitor asylum housing they find a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/rats-asbestos-toddlers-when-security-company-g4s-is-asylum-seeker-landlord">shocking world of rats, and asbestos</a>, with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-35603952">tenants being ridiculed and punished</a>&nbsp;by G4S and Serco staff.</p><p>The Home Affairs Committee itself issued&nbsp;<a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmhaff/772/77208.htm">a report</a>&nbsp;on the ‘red doors’ and ‘red wristbands’ on 4 March that contradicted the conclusions from the audit. It concluded that the: “delivery of the contract has been mostly unsatisfactory to date, with these episodes highlighting flaws in accountability and oversight of the contracts, and a failure to ensure that the way asylum seekers are treated and housed meets basic standards.”The HAC was clear in its report on 4 March that they plan to investigate “the quality of accommodation provided in all parts of the UK under the COMPASS contract.”</p> <p>Last month Keith Vaz announced that the Home Affairs Committee would indeed start a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-35848080">full inquiry</a> after visiting the <span><a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/scotland/article4717097.ece">“horrific” housing</a></span> provided by Serco’s contractor Orchard &amp; Shipman in Glasgow.</p> <p>"Before the Home Secretary signs the next contract, the committee will have things to say,” Vaz told the BBC. </p> <p>“So we will conclude our inquiry in plenty of time for the Home Secretary to be able to reflect on it before she signs the new contracts.”&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-for-asylum-seekers-mps-grill-one-of-britain-s-richest">Red doors for asylum seekers: MPs grill one of Britain’s richest landlords</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-made-asylum-seekers-targets-for-abuse-deliberate">Red doors made asylum seekers targets for abuse. 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Stuart Monk of Jomast fails to impress.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/STUART MONK-this one_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/STUART MONK-this one_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="272" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'All the complaints?' Stuart Monk of Jomast, Home Affairs Committee, January 2016</span></span></span></p><p>Last week a Parliamentary committee asked one of Britain’s richest landlords to hand over the complaints his company had received from its asylum-seeker tenants. “<em>All</em> the complaints?” replied Stuart Monk, owner and managing director of <a href="http://www.jomast.co.uk/about-us/our-people/">Jomast</a>. “There’ll be a lot, there’ll be an enormous number.”&nbsp; [<a href="http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/0dca3772-f15a-434d-ae59-1ec153372066">video here: 5.31pm to 5.33pm</a>]</p> <p>After the <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4669721.ece">Times</a> revealed that G4S and Jomast, its subcontractor for asylum housing in England’s North East, had painted the doors of asylum seekers houses red, resulting in racist attacks and arson, the <a href="http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/Odca3772-f15a-434d-ae59-1ec153372066">Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee</a> summoned the companies to Westminster.</p> <p>Stuart<strong> </strong>Monk<strong>,</strong> whose family has an estimated wealth of £175 million, represented Jomast. G4S put up Peter Neden, the company’s regional president for UK and Ireland, and John Whitwam, managing director, immigration. </p> <p>Committee chairman Keith Vaz MP summed up the session, an embarrassing one for Stuart Monk, by telling him: “I found your evidence today unsatisfactory.”</p> <p>Monk was adamant that as a businessman he was providing “a product suitable for asylum seekers”. He claimed in providing asylum housing Jomast had “a track record second to none”. </p> <p>Members of the Home Affairs Committee were less than impressed. Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, said that the Jomast business model was pretty clear —&nbsp;“buying cheap property in the most deprived part of communities, making a profit from deprivation and people’s need for refuge”. Umunna called it “an unseemly and unsavoury” business.</p> <p>So what is Jomast’s true record?</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/timesfrontpageREDDOORS CROP_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/timesfrontpageREDDOORS CROP_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="474" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Times lead story, 20 Jan 2016</span></span></span>Jomast was established as a family regeneration and property development company in 1972. The company, which claims to be <a href="http://www.jomast.co.uk/housing/">“a leading name in private sector housing provision and one of the largest private landlords in the UK”</a> was accused by The Times of creating <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4669721.ece">“apartheid on the streets of Britain”</a> by painting asylum seekers doors red in its asylum housing in Middlesbrough. </p> <p>Jomast had built its domination of the asylum housing market in the North East by 2010 through takeovers of smaller contractors, and outbidding most of the local authorities and contractors like Clearsprings in the region, undercutting their bids for extension of the asylum housing contracts. </p><p>The North East was the earliest wholly privatised asylum housing market region in the UK and Jomast wanted to bid in 2011 for a part of the proposed £600 million UK wide Home Office asylum housing contract. It’s known as <a href="http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/taking-over-the-asylum/6525285.article">COMPASS (Commercial and Operational Managers Procuring Asylum Support Services). </a></p> <p>Andrew Norfolk’s revelation in the Times about those distinctive red doors was not the first time the voices of asylum seeker tenants had been raised in protest against Jomast and its degrading housing.&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2010 Jomast had added its own <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/g4s-jomast-stockton-hostel-and-the-mother-and-baby-market/">‘mother and baby market’</a> to the national asylum housing market with the development of a former police hostel it owned in Stockton. By 2012 the hostel accommodated thirty-two women and thirty-eight babies and toddlers. Despite the protests of health workers, social workers and the <a href="http://www.egenda.stockton.gov.uk/aksstockton/users/public/admin/kab12.pl?cmte=SSP&amp;meet=27&amp;arc=71">Safer Stockton Partnership committee</a> Jomast won approval from the Stockton Planning committee. </p><p>The hostel was in blatant disregard of key provisions in the Home Office policies on dispersal — that there should not be concentrations of asylum seekers in particular neighbourhoods and that women asylum seekers and their children should not be housed and concentrated in known ‘red light’ areas of sex work and prostitution.</p> <p>Catherine Tshezi, who was dumped in the hostel weeks after giving birth, said about her experience there: “This really goes to show that the asylum seekers are not respected. We are all human beings and <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/g4s-jomast-stockton-hostel-and-the-mother-and-baby-market/">we deserve respect and dignity</a>.”</p> <p>The hostel, the first and the only one in the UK asylum housing system at the time, resurrected the world of punitive housing, back to the women-only segregated hostels of <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2006/feb/15/2">Cathy Come Home</a>, and the morally charged unmarried-mother-and-baby units that local authorities developed in the 1950s and 1960s. </p><p>In interviews I undertook with women at the Stockton hostel in 2012 they constantly returned to phrases about living in “cells”, in conditions “like a prison”. They said there was no respect for their dignity, privacy or different cultures.</p> <p><a href="http://www.refugeewomen.co.uk/uncategorized/mother-and-baby-face-eviction/">Cha Matty,</a> a former housing worker, one of the women in the hostel who had been there a year with her baby, said she was “shocked and disappointed at how we have been treated by the powers that be. How inhuman they are treating us, and we are just numbers&nbsp;for them in making a profit which is very unfair and sad”.</p> <p>Cha went on to campaign for closure of the hostel and took her experience to the Children’s Society <a href="http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/news-views/press-release/woeful-asylum-support-pushes-children-and-families-destitution">Parliamentary inquiry into asylum support</a>. </p> <p>Sarah Teather MP, who chaired the inquiry, described the experience of women and children like Cha and her daughter in the Stockton hostel <a href="http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?gid=2013-02-27b.73.2">in Parliament</a> on 27 February 2013: </p> <p>“They are treated as luggage rather than people who deserve some dignity and respect. The Government must get to grips with that with housing contractors.” </p> <p>Teather said housing providers demonstrated “abject disregard for basic human dignity”. </p> <p>At the same time as Cha and another former resident of the hostel were in London giving evidence, their local MP posted on his website:</p> <p>“Alex Cunningham has today called for the Home Secretary to investigate the handling of contracts for housing asylum seekers by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) which impact directly on people in his Stockton North constituency.”</p> <p>Cha’s reward for her whistleblowing was devastating – <a href="http://tcarblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/life-on-section-4-zoe-williams.html">Jomast evicted her</a> and her toddler daughter into local authority bed and breakfast and she lost her own financial support.</p> <p>Jomast since 2012 has continued to use the hostel and has also converted an adjoining property. Jomast is currently facing opposition in Hartlepool for its plans to convert a property it has bought there for conversion into another mother and baby hostel. </p> <p>According to council minutes quoted by the <a href="http://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/news/local/developers-appeal-over-refused-plans-for-asylum-seekers-hostel-in-hartlepool-1-7560198?#axzz3r0J3UPII">Hartlepool Mail</a>, members “highlighted the high rate of sex crimes in the area and felt it was not a suitable premises for the intended use”.</p> <h2><strong>Forced evictions and racist attacks</strong></h2> <p>Stockton was not the only town where the Jomast brand of landlordism shaped the asylum housing market. In Sunderland Jomast decided throughout the summer of 2012 to increase the profitability of its asylum housing leased from other small landlords by forcing<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/forced-evictions-racist-attacks-meet-new-landlord-security-company-g4s">&nbsp;some of its existing tenants</a> in larger accommodation to move out, sending them to Gateshead and replacing them with single men forced to share bedrooms. </p> <p>I spoke to former Jomast employees who told me of eight cases of this kind. I interviewed an elderly disabled Congolese couple who had been in asylum housing since 2008 and supported by Sunderland Social Services in their accommodation for two years. They were given notice and dumped in a Jomast flat in Gateshead twelve miles away where they suffered repeated racist abuse from local teenagers.</p> <p>In 2012 and 2013 I interviewed a Kurdish journalist who had fled from attackers in Iraq and within a week had been dumped in a Jomast house in an area of known Far Right activity in Sunderland. He and other tenants came under attack from a crowd who broke the door and windows. Jomast patched up the windows but refused to move him. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/DR-6_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Back yard (Dorothy Ismail)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/DR-6_0.jpg" alt="" title="Back yard (Dorothy Ismail)" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Back yard (Dorothy Ismail)</span></span></span>On a couple of occasions at a Sunderland drop-in centre I chatted with an Eritrean athlete who had fled his Olympic squad and ended up in a squalid, dirty Jomast property visited by drug dealers and sex workers. At the same centre I talked to a doctor who had worked with refugees in South Sudan — she was dumped with her toddler daughter at the top of a run down Jomast house with her daughter’s cot next to a cooker, and a filthy back yard as a play area (picture above).</p> <h2><strong>Early investigations on ‘red doors’ housing</strong></h2> <p>Investigations into Jomast properties in Stockton and Middlesbrough for a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0546jxx">BBC TV North East programme</a>, filmed in late 2014 and screened in March 2015, exposed overcrowded damp and rundown houses with forced sharing of bedrooms — and the red doors. </p><p>BBC reporters for the first time managed to get a figure for Home Office payments to G4S/Jomast: £9.20 per night per asylum seeker. The BBC team suggested that the return on Jomast investment in the Stockton ‘red doors’ houses (using taxpayers’ money of course) rivalled the returns expected on luxury properties in the Teesside countryside.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/__BESTjohn closeup with reporter inside out.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/__BESTjohn closeup with reporter inside out.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>John Grayson, BBC TV Inside Out programme March 2015</span></span></span></p> <p>A Home Office statement given to the programme defended the use of taxpayers’ money saying that “for the price of a takeaway meal” asylum seekers were being housed in Stockton. Andrew Norfolk in his Times article suggests that Jomast are being paid around £8 million by the Home Office this year for asylum housing.</p> <h2><strong>Hovels driving profits </strong></h2> <p>Stuart Monk told MPs last week: “We’ve had an exemplary record in terms of the provision of services.” </p> <p>But, <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm160120/debtext/160120-0001.htm">speaking in Parliament</a> on Wednesday 20 January, Alex Cunningham MP, whose Stockton North constituency adjoins Middlesbrough, said: </p> <p>“Jomast has a major base in my constituency, and this is not the first time that it has come under national media scrutiny for the wrong reasons. I have visited some of the hovels that have apparently passed the test as ‘decent homes’, driving huge profits directly from Government contracts.”</p> <p>No doubt the Home Affairs Committee will be inviting Stuart Monk back quite soon. The chair Keith Vaz suggested that they were likely to be launching a full inquiry into the COMPASS contract in the coming months.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-made-asylum-seekers-targets-for-abuse-deliberate">Red doors made asylum seekers targets for abuse. Deliberate?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/stuart-crosthwaite/marked-out-for-attack-living-in-uk-asylum-market">Marked out for attack: living in the UK &#039;asylum market&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/barbara-tagged-and-monitored-like-criminal">Barbara, tagged and monitored like a criminal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/toddlers-rats-asbestos-g4s-asylum-seekers-landlord">Toddlers, rats, asbestos. G4S, asylum seekers’ landlord</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/meet-uk-s-latest-weapon-against-organised-crime-and-asylum-seekers">Meet the UK’s latest weapon against organised crime and asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/one-bath-for-12-women-and-11-babies-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">One bath for 12 women and 11 babies: UK asylum housing by G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/uk-watchdog-takes-another-bite-out-of-failing-outsourcer-g4s">UK watchdog takes another bite out of failing outsourcer G4S</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Mon, 01 Feb 2016 22:14:35 +0000 John Grayson 99491 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Red doors made asylum seekers targets for abuse. Deliberate? https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/red-doors-made-asylum-seekers-targets-for-abuse-deliberate <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why did UK commercial contractors G4S and Jomast paint asylum seekers’ doors red? Why did they ignore complaints for years?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/CZHcafKWkAEOYcH.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/CZHcafKWkAEOYcH.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="586" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>The plight of asylum seekers living in substandard accommodation rarely excites national media attention here in the UK.&nbsp;But Wednesday’s <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4669721.ece">front page story in The Times</a> about asylum seekers’ front doors being painted red by their private landlord has been followed across the national media and <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm160120/debtext/160120-0001.htm">provoked questions in Parliament</a>.</p> <p>Vulnerable tenants in deprived areas of Middlesbrough told Times reporter Andrew Norfolk that their distinctive red doors made them targets for racist abuse. “They described incidents including the smearing of dog excrement against doors, and eggs and stones being thrown at windows,” Norfolk wrote.</p> <p>The landlord is Jomast, the influential Teesside property company that is sub-contracted by the security giant G4S to supply housing to asylum seekers across England’s North East. </p> <p>The client is the UK Home Office and the arrangements are known by the acronym COMPASS —&nbsp;Commercial and Operational Managers Procuring of Asylum Support Services. &nbsp;</p> <p>When G4S became one of the government’s preferred bidders five years ago the company <a href="http://www.g4s.com/en/Media%20Centre/News/2011/12/20/COMPASS%20contracts/">claimed</a>: “We are confident that our approach would improve the provision of accommodation for asylum applicants and their families.” </p><p>But it hasn’t worked out that way, as I’ve reported over years . . . on&nbsp;children exposed to health risks in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/living-with-rats-landlord-g4s">rat-infested homes</a>, lone women&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/their-secret-is-out-but-for-g4s-and-friends-%E2%80%98abject-disregard-for-human-dign">intimidated by their landlords</a>, a <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/cockroach-in-baby%E2%80%99s-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s">cockroach in the baby’s bottle</a> and more.</p> <p>The Times reported that both Jomast and G4S denied that most asylum seekers in Middlesbrough had red doors. G4S director John Whitwam was quoted as saying that there was “absolutely no such policy”. But, of 168 Jomast properties identified by The Times, 155 had red doors. </p> <p>In a contradictory statement <a href="http://www.g4s.com/en/Media%20Centre/News/2016/01/19/Asylum%20seeker%20housing%20in%20North%20East%20England/">issued on its website</a> this week, G4S claimed to have received “no complaints or requests from asylum seekers” regarding the red doors, and acknowledged that “the issue of front door colours was first raised with us in&nbsp;2012”.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The secret apartheid on Britain's streets <a href="https://t.co/XLVA3IBDzP">https://t.co/XLVA3IBDzP</a> <a href="https://t.co/9hPf0bY8AF">pic.twitter.com/9hPf0bY8AF</a></p>— The Times of London (@thetimes) <a href="https://twitter.com/thetimes/status/689915307536838656">January 20, 2016</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p>In fact the issue of red doors has been raised repeatedly over years, by asylum seekers, by campaigners and by members of Parliament. </p> <p>Suzanne Fletcher told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday how she had alerted G4S to Jomast’s red doors policy years ago. Fletcher, a retired councillor who works alongside asylum seekers and community volunteers in Stockton-on-Tees, said (<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06wf6n5#play">here, about 1 hour 25 minutes in</a>): “We set up meetings with G4S, constructive helpful meetings was the idea. In September 2012, I’ve got the notes here, we asked G4S if they would do something about the red doors, and they said they had no intention of doing anything about it.”</p><p>Fletcher alerted the National Audit Office and the Home Affairs Committee. <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmhaff/71/71vw32008_HC71_01_VIRT_HomeAffairs_ASY-45.htm">Here’s her written evidence to the Home Affairs Committee</a> in April 2013. “We have documented the problems, held an open meeting with G4S and UKBA, and held a number of meetings with G4S on the problems,” she wrote. “Solutions have been promised to many of the problems, but very little, apart from the G4S grant for kitchen equipment has materialised.”</p> <p>Under the title “Relationships with the neighbourhood” Fletcher continued:<em> “</em>Despite instructions in the&nbsp;COMPASS&nbsp;document about reducing the possibility of conflict in the neighbourhood, the landlord has painted the doors of each of their properties housing asylum seekers red. This clearly says ‘this is where asylum seekers live’. It should be part of the contract that such clearly outwardly visible signs should not be allowed by housing providers.”</p> <p>Suzanne Fletcher briefed Ian Swales, then the Liberal Democrat MP for Redcar and a member of the Public Accounts Committee. This week Swales <a href="http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/red-doors-asylum-seekers-concerns-10760752">told the Teesside newspaper The Gazette:</a> “I raised it while G4S were there talking about the issue of housing for asylum seekers. You could hear the intake of breath because of the shock in the room.”</p> <p><a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/WrittenEvidence.svc/EvidenceHtml/5823">Here’s the transcript</a> from that evidence session at the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday 5 February 2014. Representing G4S was executive Stephen Small, the company’s ‘Managing Director, Immigration and Borders’.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/stephensmallPACFEB2014BIG.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/stephensmallPACFEB2014BIG.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="229" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stephen Small, G4S executive in charge of asylum housing, Public Accounts Committee, Feb 2014</span></span></span></p> <p>Swales asks him: “Do you think that painting the doors a different colour — in this case, red — so that the whole neighbourhood knows who the asylum seekers are is likely to make that accommodation more safe? Is that a good idea?”</p> <p>Small, who had been recruited to his sensitive role at G4S from the pest control company Rentokil, replies: “The fact is that our supplier, Jomast, supplied services to asylum seekers in the previous contract as well as with G4S. I cannot comment on the doors being painted red, but I will take that point away.”</p> <p>The former MP Ian Swales told the <a href="http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/red-doors-asylum-seekers-concerns-10760752">Gazette</a> this week: “If you mark people out in that way, you signal them to extremists and vandals. Anyone with any sensitivity would realise it would be an issue.”</p> <p>He went on: “I want to make clear I have never believed that Jomast or G4S have marked these people out deliberately, but it is completely thoughtless.”</p> <p>The evidence of years of abuse and neglect of asylum tenants suggests that, far from being a callous oversight, the decision to paint asylum seekers’ doors red, and to keep them that way despite all those objections, chimes with the apparent policy to make Britain a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/meet-uk%E2%80%99s-latest-weapon-against-organised-crime-and-asylum-seekers">hostile environment for asylum seekers</a>.</p> <p>For the past three years asylum seeker tenants in G4S housing have, despite fear and intimidation, spoken out in protest at the degrading treatment they have received from the UK Home Office, G4S and their subcontractors.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/barbaratagcrop2_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/barbaratagcrop2_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="209" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Asylum-seeker and G4S tenant Barbara is forced to wear a tag (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>I have written about these protests and reported on housing conditions that parliamentary committees have condemned as “<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/living-with-rats-landlord-g4s">appalling</a>”, conditions for which both G4S and Serco (the other main contractor) have been fined by the Home Office.</p> <p>In 2013 I wrote about Jomast’s degrading treatment of women asylum seekers and their toddlers in hostels which the women described as a form of detention, <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/g4s-jomast-stockton-hostel-and-the-mother-and-baby-market/">“living in cells”</a>, blighting their children’s early years. </p> <p>I’ve found it difficult to get public figures to speak out about Jomast —&nbsp;with the honourable exception of Labour MP <a href="https://twitter.com/ACunninghamMP?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor">Alex Cunningham</a>, <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm160120/debtext/160120-0001.htm">who told the Commons on Wednesday</a>: &nbsp;</p><p>“Jomast has a major base in my constituency, and this is not the first time that it has come under national media scrutiny for the wrong reasons. I have visited some of the hovels that have apparently passed the test as ‘decent homes’, driving huge profits directly from government contracts.”</p><p>Cunningham went on: “While the Minister inquires further into this latest scandal, will he also order a further review in real detail of the standards of Teesside accommodation, including houses of multiple occupation in my Stockton North constituency, and get a better deal and better value for money for both tenants and the Government?”</p><p>Jomast is one of <a href="http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/who-jomast-urban-regeneration-specialist-10760920">Teesside’s most powerful companies</a>, with major contracts to redevelop Stockton town centre and other sites on Wearside and Teesside. It’s run by Stuart Monk, whose family has an estimated wealth of £175 million. </p> <p>In response to criticism this week, <a href="http://www.g4s.com/en/Media%20Centre/News/2016/01/19/Asylum%20seeker%20housing%20in%20North%20East%20England/">Stuart Monk said</a>: “Our accommodation is inspected frequently by the Home Office and has been found to meet or exceed the required standards.</p> <p>“As many landlords will attest, paint is bought in bulk for use across all properties. It is ludicrous to suggest that this constitutes any form of discrimination, and offensive to make comparisons to a policy of apartheid in Nazi Germany.</p> <p>“However we have agreed to repaint doors in a range of colours after these concerns were brought to our attention.”</p> <p>When Andrew Norfolk sought my assistance I briefed him. Andrew trudged the streets of Middlesbrough achieving what very few journalists could have done —&nbsp; winning the trust of asylum seekers and allowing them a voice to let the light in on the degradation and violence they were experiencing as a result of the red doors policy. He told me recently that it was a “huge learning experience” and that he had been overwhelmed by the hospitality and warmth of the asylum seekers he had worked with.</p> <p>The Daily Mail, Express, Mirror and Telegraph, Independent, Guardian, the BBC, Sky News, ITV News, and the Huffington Post all followed Andrew’s&nbsp;story. The doors are to be repainted and the immigration minister James Brokenshire has roused Home Office civil servants to begin <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4669721.ece">“an urgent audit</a> of asylum seeker housing in the North East”.</p> <blockquote lang="en" class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">There is categorically no G4S policy to house asylum seekers behind red doors.</p>— G4S (@G4S) <a href="https://twitter.com/G4S/status/689594874438537220">January 19, 2016</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p>All this comes at a crucial point. Late last year the Home Office revealed to the <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/79c0bf80-a70b-11e5-955c-1e1d6de94879.html#axzz3vDM5DDBC">Financial Times</a> that it is in negotiations with G4S, Serco and Clearel, the contractor for the South and Wales, about the option to extend the contract for at least two years beyond 2017. </p> <p>Last year <a href="http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/councillorsandcommittees/Agenda.asp?meetingid=13814">Glasgow City Council</a> and Sheffield City Council passed resolutions demanding a review of the COMPASS contracts.</p> <p>Today, Graham O’Neill, policy officer at Scottish Refugee Council told me: “Scottish Refugee Council and others have been calling for organisations and individuals across the UK to provide evidence to Keith Vaz, as Chair of the Home Affairs Committee by 19th February on the&nbsp;COMPASS&nbsp;accommodation contracts delivered by G4S, Serco, and Clearel, in order to persuade the Committee that a UK-wide, independent inquiry is now essential. The red doors scandal, and the dysfunctional oversight it shows, adds to the case.”</p> <p>Sheffield asylum seekers and refugees in <a href="http://www.symaag.org.uk">SYMAAG</a> (South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group) the organisation I chair and do voluntary research for, opposed the notion of G4S taking over the asylum housing contract in Yorkshire back in 2012. We interpreted the move correctly as the Home Office extending ‘asylum markets’ and their ‘hostile environment’ from detention centres, run by contractors G4S and Serco, into asylum seekers’ homes. </p><p>As one Zimbabwean asylum housing tenant in Sheffield said in 2012: &nbsp;“I don’t want a prison guard as my landlord”. After the Times revelations it is surely time for the government to take asylum housing away from their disgraced commercial contractors.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/barbara-tagged-and-monitored-like-criminal">Barbara, tagged and monitored like a criminal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/toddlers-rats-asbestos-g4s-asylum-seekers-landlord">Toddlers, rats, asbestos. G4S, asylum seekers’ landlord</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/meet-uk-s-latest-weapon-against-organised-crime-and-asylum-seekers">Meet the UK’s latest weapon against organised crime and asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/one-bath-for-12-women-and-11-babies-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">One bath for 12 women and 11 babies: UK asylum housing by G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/welcome-to-britain-go-home-or-face-arrest">Welcome to Britain: &#039;Go Home or Face Arrest&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/destitution-intimidation-how-britain-shirks-its-obligations-to-asylum-seeke">Destitution, intimidation . . . How Britain shirks its obligations to asylum-seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/five-lessons-britain-must-learn-from-botched-privatisation-of-asylum-housin">Five lessons Britain must learn from the botched privatisation of asylum housing</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/how-to-use-housing-to-hurt-people-britains-hostile-environment-for-asylum-s">How to use housing to hurt people: Britain&#039;s hostile environment for asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/uk-watchdog-takes-another-bite-out-of-failing-outsourcer-g4s">UK watchdog takes another bite out of failing outsourcer G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/living-with-rats-landlord-g4s">Living with rats. Landlord G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/after-mubenga-unlawful-killing-verdict-could-asylum-seekers-have-worse-land">After Mubenga unlawful killing verdict: Could asylum seekers have a worse landlord than G4S?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light People Flow G4S: Securing whose world? Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Fri, 22 Jan 2016 14:35:03 +0000 John Grayson 99277 at https://www.opendemocracy.net G4S disputes claims that transgender asylum-seeker had to share bedroom with man https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-disputes-claims-that-transgender-asylum-seeker-had-to-share <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Neglect, contempt and hostility — how the UK government really welcomes refugees.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Matthewsaccomm.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Matthewsaccomm.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Matthew's accommodation (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>I was talking to Paul, an asylum seeker from the Middle East in a G4S house in a working class suburb of Sheffield. Paul told me that one of his neighbours was a transgender woman whom G4S had placed in the all-male flats, forcing her to share a bedroom with a young Muslim man. The woman had been teased as a ‘man woman’ but not apparently disliked or harassed. </p> <p>Perhaps the Home Office and G4S were following the <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3291097/Transgender-woman-born-man-sent-male-prison-despite-fears-safety-following-assault-conviction.html">example of the Prison Service</a>, which has&nbsp;placed trans-gender women in all-male prisons? One, Vicky Thompson, aged 21, was recently <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/nov/19/transgender-woman-found-dead-in-all-male-prison">found dead at Armley jail in Leeds</a>, after apparently telling friends she would kill herself if sent there. The Prison Service argues it is ‘legal status’ ,not the assumed gender which determines treatment. G4S had apparently gone one better than the Prison Service by insisting that a transgender woman had to share a bedroom with a man. </p> <p>Paul showed me the G4S attendance list where there was a male name. He said that this was the woman. She had not signed for a couple of weeks and no one knew where she was now.</p><p>G4S disputes Paul’s allegations. A company spokesman said:&nbsp;“We never put transgender asylum seekers in shared bedrooms. On the contrary in cases where an asylum seeker we look after identifies as transgender, we provide additional support including offering alternative accommodation in a separate unit.”</p><h2>Jacob’s story</h2> <p>Jacob is nervous and agitated. “I can’t sleep, I hardly ever sleep,” he tells me. His Rasta sweatbands hide scars of past self-harming. His G4S accommodation is some of the best I have seen — a newly converted villa in a Sheffield suburb.</p> <p>Jacob likes the place and the staff who are there during the day. He hates the CCTV cameras on the corridors and near the door. “They’re just like in the detention centres,” he says. Jacob has been in and out of detention centres, and the asylum system for twelve years. He remembers the cameras in the G4S-managed Brook House IRC (Immigration Removal Centre) where he was held on three separate occasions waiting to be deported. </p><p>But what he really hates and fears is being forced to share his bedroom. Ten days before I talk to him Jacob had been discharged from hospital after he had tried to take his life. His room is his own for now but a new resident is due to be moved in. Jacob tells me he is very afraid.</p> <p>I’ve written here in the past about various indignities suffered by asylum seekers living in Home Office accommodation provided by the commercial contractor G4S. <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/rats-asbestos-toddlers-when-security-company-g4s-is-asylum-seeker-landlord">Rats, asbestos, cockroaches</a>, have featured in my articles, intimidation too. Is being forced to share a bedroom really so bad? Asylum seekers tell me it is.</p> <h2>Matthew<span>’s story</span></h2> <p>An African political refugee, and medical scientist in his fifties, Matthew has spent over a year in the UK asylum housing system. He looks tired and frail. “I think I will be OK, this is the second time the system and G4S have tried to kill me,” he tells me.</p> <p>Matthew was recovering from his second heart attack since he had entered the UK asylum system. I met him in his G4S flat, on the edge of a suburban council estate in Sheffield, sparsely furnished with second hand chairs and table (pictured above).</p> <p>He had arrived in 2014 when international security companies G4S and Serco, who manage detention centres and provide asylum housing in the UK, were <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/destitution-intimidation-how-britain-shirks-its-obligations-to-asylumseekers">overwhelmed by the growing numbers of new asylum seekers.</a> The Home Office was telling them to use hotels. Matthew was sent first to the overcrowded and seedy Heathrow Lodge, then to a Birmingham budget hotel because the Birmingham Initial Accommodation Centre (IAC) was full. </p> <p>“In the Heathrow place it was just packaged sandwiches we were given, with occasional out of date cartons of yogurt,” Matthew told me. “In Birmingham it was the same one hot meal — chicken curry, rice and salad — every single day, for two months, through November and December, young children of three years old had the same meals. We had to eat round the back of the hotel in a freezing room out of sight of any other guests —&nbsp;the owners said we were dirty and ‘not normal’.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MATTHEWdoor.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/MATTHEWdoor.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The approach to Matthew's accommodation</span></span></span></p> <p>Matthew helped to organise protests about the food, and about the failure of the heating and hot water which meant men, women and children going down two floors to the gym for a shower.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>“When I rang G4S they told me the Home Office paid for only one hot meal,” Matthew tells me. “When I tackled the hotel owners they said they would report me, and protesting would affect my asylum claim. When I demanded some space for activities for the children they told me the daily one and a half hours’ access to the lounge was all anyone could have. So twice a week I took the young people on a one mile walk to a church hall who gave us space, and I started English classes.”</p> <p>“The small hotel was often overcrowded with seventy to ninety asylum seekers there, never less than forty-five. We had to share our rooms, two and sometimes three to a room.” Matthew told me he had suffered from a heart condition since 2008 and he carried lots of his medication into the asylum system.</p> <h2>The first heart attack and then the bed bugs</h2> <p>“The constant pressure and insulting, degrading treatment finally had its effect on me. Early in December I recognised the symptoms of a heart attack and went to the main Initial Accommodation Centre building to get referred to hospital. They offered me paracetamol and sent me away. At the door a G4S driver saw I was in pain and decided to drive me to hospital, when he left me there he said G4S might refuse to pick me up after treatment so I had to ring him. I had treatment and spent three days in hospital and sure enough on the Sunday when I was discharged I rang G4S and they said that I would have to wait till Monday. My friend the driver came for me in his own car.”</p> <p>After three months in ‘temporary’ holding accommodation Matthew expected to be ‘dispersed’ to asylum housing. Instead he was sent to Urban House (another Initial Accommodation Centre) under the walls of Wakefield high security prison. Again a shared room, this time bunk beds. </p> <p>“I had no medical check for the first three weeks,” Matthew says. “Things just got worse. I was getting bitten by bed bugs. In my university I am a parasitologist, I have lectured for eighteen years about disease-carrying insects. I knew bed bugs would affect my medication. In Urban House they hadn’t a clue. Over four days they refused to really do anything effective. They sprayed my room with pyrethrum which has no effect on bed bugs. In the end I went out and bought bleach and washed the bedclothes and could find only one dryer working in the whole building. That place should be investigated —&nbsp;bed bugs can easily spread into the community around the centre. The staff in there are authoritarian and insulting. I was mocked because I love to dress neat — <em>you think you work here?</em> they said sarcastically.”</p> <p>G4S asylum housing in Sheffield was no real improvement. Matthew was put in a three bed roomed terraced house. “I was forced to share a room with a twenty-one-year-old smoker from Chechnya,” he says. &nbsp;By now he was pleading with G4S. His doctors wrote asking for a single room as his blood pressure soared. After three weeks the young man was moved and so was Matthew. </p> <p>“G4S played another trick on me. They first moved me to a clean single room near to the city centre and my doctors. They then came again after twenty-four hours and said it was a mistake.</p> <p>“I was moved to these flats miles out of the city centre, again to a shared bedroom. At first I simply refused to move in, they shouted at me and started taking my bags and saying I could sleep on the streets then. I now live a four miles round trip from hospital services and a mile walk to the only post office designated to pay me my support.”</p> <h2><strong>Resisting the asylum system and G4S</strong></h2> <p>I had heard that Matthew was volunteering to speak to groups about being an asylum seeker; I asked him about this. Matthew told me of a meeting with a women’s business forum. “I went there with a Yemeni asylum seeker – she had worked for the IMF and been an adviser in the Yemeni Finance Ministry. Not surprisingly the people there said that they didn’t realise that asylum seekers were people like us!”&nbsp; </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*goldenrules.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*goldenrules.JPG" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Matthew was also keen to volunteer to help in the Sheffield campaign to get Sheffield City Council to stop G4S forcing asylum housing tenants to share bedrooms. The campaign had already sent a petition to the council meeting and the council had agreed to refuse to licence any new G4S HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) where unrelated residents were forced to share bedrooms. In one slum HMO I had investigated G4S and the private landlord who supplied the property were set to receive over £28,000 over the year from the Home Office for housing nine men in shared rooms. G4S therefore was unwilling to stop bedroom sharing in their existing properties. In one house where there had been protests they posted the “G4S Golden Rules” one of which read:</p> <blockquote><p>“<strong>Room Sharing</strong> Everyone has to share a room. You will be given a roommate at some stage and must accept them. They will be selected for you and you have no right to request a different roommate.”&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>Asylum seekers and activists from SYMAAG asked for a meeting with the chair of housing at Sheffield City Council. We wanted to find a way of ending all bedroom sharing in G4S accommodation. Matthew was part of the delegation, and his testimony proved crucial in finally ending room sharing from 31 October.</p> <p>I last saw Matthew at a public meeting where he sought me out to say that he had been offered a ‘political’ appointment in a university in his home country. “Don’t worry, John,” he said. &nbsp;“I will get protection there, and I am just very glad to get out of this asylum system. Here the system was so demoralising for me. It made me feel like a criminal, not someone seeking safety.”</p> <h2><strong>And if refugees do manage to get to the UK…</strong></h2> <p>In September in these same flats where Matthew lived, a young Eritrean man had spent a few weeks in one of the shared bedrooms. He had come across the Mediterranean from Libya to Lampedusa across Europe through Calais and then to the flats in Sheffield. The Home Office had discovered he had been fingerprinted at Lampedusa - and deported him to Italy via Morton Hall Detention Centre in Lincolnshire. Apparently as other asylum seekers were helping him to pack his few belongings he cheerily told them: “I’ll be back soon.”</p> <p>Dozens of young Eritreans like him find themselves in Urban House in Wakefield, still in their dirty and torn clothes from Calais. Urban House provides no replacement clothing; local charities in Wakefield have to appeal for donations of clothing, shoes and packs of new underwear. One charity worker I spoke to said. “What we really need are packs of new underwear for the men, Urban House refuse to supply them<strong>, </strong>G4S say the Home Office did not specify this in their contract"</p> <p>Of the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32411352">3,239 Eritrean migrants who made the perilous journey</a> to the UK in 2014 to apply for asylum, 87 per cent were granted asylum. In March this year the Home Office decided bizarrely that Eritrea was a ‘safe’ country. Approval rates for Eritreans <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/sep/10/britain-refusing-asylum-eritreans-discredited-report">then plummeted</a> from 73% in the first quarter of 2015 to 34% in the second quarter. Last year in 2014, the <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmpublic/immigration/151020/am/151020s01.htm">Home Office refused 70% of Iraqis, 70% of Libyans, and 65% of Afghans who claimed asylum.</a><strong></strong></p> <h2><strong>Around England</strong></h2> <p>Again the UK asylum system is responding badly to the very modest increase in those managing to get into the country. The Birmingham IAC is full and hotels are again being used. Serco is <a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/asylum-seekers-transported-luxury-50000-6629927">transporting people by stretch limousine</a> across the country to <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3316831/Angry-villagers-campaign-evict-70-asylum-seekers-hotel-ve-staying-July-cost-750-000-taxpayer.html">budget hotels</a> in Lancashire. Families are still being forced to live in appalling asylum housing. Natasha Walter recently reported on &nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/29/britain-asylum-rules-mothers-beg">'Jane' an asylum seeker</a> from the Congo (DRC) in London where</p> <p>“The housing provided by the Home Office is one room where she and her two children sleep in the same bed, infested with cockroaches and freezing cold.”</p> <p>The Conservatives and UKIP majority on <a href="http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/defence/where-portsmouth-s-leaders-stand-on-controversial-asylum-seekers-issue-1-7012463#ixzz3ql2Hxo2j">Portsmouth city council</a> have recently not only rejected the idea of taking Syrian refugees, but have decided to &nbsp;opt out of taking asylum seekers at all. At present Home Office contractor Clearel houses 124 asylum seekers in the city of 210,000 people. The Council argues that they put too much pressure on local schools in fact only eighteen of the asylum seekers are children, and none of them go to schools in the city.</p> <p>The asylum rules are being tightened and the process becomes more brutalised. The <a href="http://www.jcwi.org.uk/blog/2015/10/12/why-jcwi-objects-immigration-bill-2015">Immigration Bill</a> before parliament has a proposal that everyone who claims asylum will immediately be considered as ‘on bail’ just as if they were criminals who have been charged with the offence of claiming asylum. For many years migrants and refugees have been labelled as ‘illegals’, and criminalised, now the label is to be confirmed in parliamentary statute.</p> <p>The Home Office has for months signalled these changes, in April their <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/meet-uk&#039;s-latest-weapon-against-organised-crime-and-asylum-seekers">hard line Dial strategy</a> was presented as a warning to asylum seekers and voluntary groups in Sheffield. After the elections in May the Home Office and its contractor <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/revealed-uk-puts-electronic-tags-and-curfews-on-asylum-seekers">Capita started tagging women asylum seekers released from Yarl's Wood detention centre</a>. </p> <p>The other week I met with Barbara in Barnsley G4S asylum housing. She had been wearing her degrading tag since June. Barbara had been moved yet again to another asylum house with seven other women — and yet again forced to share a room. The Home Office refuses to disclose to me, through FOI questions, when they started tagging asylum seekers and how many are wearing their electronic shackles. Their response:</p> <p>“to extract the information that you have requested would only be possible at a disproportionate cost.”</p> <p>Perhaps the Home Office faced with repeated protests and mass demonstrations at Yarl’s Wood, and escalating cuts to its budget, is following recent developments in the USA where federal courts have freed undocumented women from detention on condition that they wear tags as part of the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/16/nyregion/ankle-monitors-weigh-on-immigrant-mothers-released-from-detention.html?module=WatchingPortal&amp;region=c-column-middle-span-region&amp;pgType=Homepage&amp;action=click&amp;mediaId=wide&amp;state=standard&amp;contentPlacement=4&amp;version=internal&amp;contentCollection=www.nytimes.com&amp;contentId=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2015%2F11%2F16%2Fnyregion%2Fankle-monitors-weigh-on-immigrant-mothers-released-from-detention.html&amp;eventName=Watching-article-click&amp;_r=1">‘Intensive Supervision Appearance Program’</a>. Estimates suggest that an ‘ankle monitor’ costs the authorities $4.50 a day compared with $260 a day for detention.</p> <p>The UK government’s real view of refugees was surely betrayed by David Cameron's comment about the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33716501">“swarm” of them at Calais</a>. The British government had fences, barbed wire, and riot police guarding its border on French soil at Calais many years before the Hungarians ‘shocked’ Europe with theirs. </p><p>There have been <a href="http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2015/10/calais-migrant-camps-.aspx">degrading camps</a> around Calais now for the past ten years. They are the ‘deterrent’, just like <a href="http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2015/06/12/asylum-fast-track-system-is-illegal-high-court-finds">the discredited ‘fast track’</a> treatment of new asylum seekers, just like the <a href="http://www.channel4.com/news/yarls-wood-immigration-removal-detention-centre-investigation">abuse and ill treatment of women in Yarl's Wood detention centre,</a> just like the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/phil-miller/dying-detainee-84-taken-to-hospital-handcuffed-to-chain-dvorzak-inquest-d">fatal treatment</a> meted out to an elderly Canadian man at Harmondsworth detention centre - and just like the disgusting and disrespectful conditions in asylum housing and accommodation throughout the UK.</p> <p>After the Paris killings, <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3318379/Hunt-Isis-killers-Syrian-passport-body-suicide-bomber-Stade-France.html">media reporting, linking the attacks to refugees</a> seeking safety in Europe, threatens the UK peoples present welcoming mood towards Syrian refugees and asylum seekers in general. The government-led ‘hostile environment’ might just be getting even more hostile.</p><hr /><p><span><br />Note:</span></p><p><em>For their protection, asylum seekers’ names have been changed. </em></p><p><em>26 November 2015. This article has been amended since publication to make clear that G4S disputes the allegation regarding an asylum-seeker who identified as transgender, and to include the company’s response.</em></p> <p><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/barbara-tagged-and-monitored-like-criminal">Barbara, tagged and monitored like a criminal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/toddlers-rats-asbestos-g4s-asylum-seekers-landlord">Toddlers, rats, asbestos. G4S, asylum seekers’ landlord</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/meet-uk-s-latest-weapon-against-organised-crime-and-asylum-seekers">Meet the UK’s latest weapon against organised crime and asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">The racist texts. What the Mubenga trial jury was not told</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/one-bath-for-12-women-and-11-babies-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">One bath for 12 women and 11 babies: UK asylum housing by G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/destitution-intimidation-how-britain-shirks-its-obligations-to-asylum-seeke">Destitution, intimidation . . . How Britain shirks its obligations to asylum-seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/five-lessons-britain-must-learn-from-botched-privatisation-of-asylum-housin">Five lessons Britain must learn from the botched privatisation of asylum housing</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Thu, 26 Nov 2015 00:00:05 +0000 John Grayson 97901 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Barbara, tagged and monitored like a criminal https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/barbara-tagged-and-monitored-like-criminal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Barbara is an asylum seeker living in the UK. How the government’s immigration crackdown creates opportunities for humiliation and profit.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/barbaratagcrop2.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/barbaratagcrop2.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="209" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Asylum-seeker Barbara is forced to wear a tag (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>Barbara (not her real name) is not a criminal. She travelled from an African country and claimed asylum in the UK.</p> <p>The Home Office refused her claim and locked her up for eight months in Yarl’s Wood, the Bedfordshire detention centre, run by Serco, notorious for <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/truth-about-sexual-abuse-at-yarls-wood-detention-centre">guards’ sexual abuse of inmates</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/jackie-long/%27headbutt-bitch%27-serco-guard-yarl%E2%80%99s-wood-uk-immigration-detention-centre">racist behaviour</a>.</p> <p>“I really can’t talk about that, why do they treat us like that?” Barbara said.</p> <p>Barbara lodged an appeal, was released from Yarl’s Wood and eventually housed in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, with seven other women from various countries, sharing a room with one of them.</p> <p>She says that two weeks after her arrival in Barnsley: “Someone from the Home Office came and made me wear a tag. I have to report to the Sheffield centre and sign once a week. I am tagged and cannot go out before seven in the morning and have to be in by seven in the evening.”</p> <p>“They’re tagging all the women coming out of Yarl’s Wood,” Barbara said. “I know three women in Leeds wearing tags.”</p> <p>This is the first time in the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/john-grayson">three years I have worked alongside asylum housing tenants</a> that I have encountered tagging. </p> <p>Electronic tagging is used in the criminal justice system to monitor offenders and to disrupt offending patterns.&nbsp;Imposing tags and curfews on asylum seekers, who have committed no crime, is an extension of this intrusive power that should worry all of us, for who is next?</p> <p><span>Asylum seekers are already closely monitored.&nbsp;</span><span>Three years ago the government contracted out the provision of asylum seeker housing to G4S, Serco and Reliance, three companies known among asylum seekers as the people who drove them to detention centres and locked them up.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>Barbara’s&nbsp;</span><span>landlord is the international security and surveillance company G4S. </span><span>In every G4S house there is an attendance register in the hallway or kitchen that residents must sign. G4S is supposed to report absences to the Home Office.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span></span>Barbara’s<span>&nbsp;</span><span>all-women house is regularly checked by G4S staff — one of whom is a man. “The G4S woman is really nice, she tells us when she is coming in and shouts to us to check we’re in.” Barbara says. “The man never phones — he just bursts in.”</span></p> <p>Frustrated by the monitoring, Barbara says: “I asked them why they are tagging me, the man said something about us ‘absconding’.”</p> <p>Asylum housing is becoming an extension of detention.</p> <p>Last week I asked the Home Office which company was tagging asylum seekers like Barbara and why? When were the first tags imposed and how many asylum seekers have been tagged since then? </p> <p>The Home Office replied that they were using their powers under the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004 to “electronically tag individuals who are liable to detention, but released on temporary admission or bail”. Decisions on tagging are being taken by Home Office civil servants – just like the decisions to send people to immigration detention centres.</p> <p>“Capita are responsible for the tagging, via an existing contract with the Ministry of Justice,” said the Home Office. A spokeswoman refused to say how many asylum seekers had been tagged nor when the practice had started. She said I was welcome to submit a Freedom of Information request.</p> <p>According to Capita’s website, the company was handed a new £400 million contract in 2013 from the Ministry of Justice for six years and was given flexibility to involve other government department. </p> <p>“The flexible, scalable service has been designed to enable other government bodies, for example, the probation services, the NHS and social care agencies, to procure related services,” says Capita.</p> <p>It is not unusual for Foreign National Prisoners (FNPs) when released on bail to be tagged. There were further proposals in the Queen’s Speech to extend this with a proposal that&nbsp;“All foreign criminals awaiting deportation will be fitted with satellite tracking tags.”</p> <p>But the use of tags on people living in asylum housing appears to be something new.</p> <p>G4S sources suggest that around twenty people have been tagged in the company’s Yorkshire asylum housing in the past few months.</p> <h2>A growing market</h2> <p>Barbara has to report each week in Sheffield, at Vulcan house the Home Office HQ. A few hundred yards away<strong> t</strong>he Capita building, with its heli pad, dominates the Eastern approach to Sheffield. (This past January Capita signed an extension to its existing seven-year <a href="http://www.capita.co.uk/news-and-opinion/news/2015/sheffield-council-extends-contract-with-capita.aspx">“transformation partnership with the Council</a>” which commenced in January 2009, by up to a further six years to 2022, earning the company “additional revenue of approximately £140-£170 million”. The company “will continue to deliver the core range of services on behalf of the Council, including ICT, revenues, benefits, HR and payroll and financial business transactions.”)</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/P1000760_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/P1000760_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Capita building, Sheffield (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p><span>Capita is one of a few huge companies for whom the government’s crackdown on immigration creates further opportunities for profit.&nbsp;</span></p><p>Barbara’s landlord, G4S, was involved in the unlawful killing of asylum seeker&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">Jimmy Mubenga</a>&nbsp;during a failed deportation attempt in October 2010.&nbsp;</p><p>After that, G4S lost its Home Office escort contract to a cut-price competitor called Reliance. The G4S workforce, among whom, the coroner had said, there was a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">“culture of racism”</a> transferred to Reliance.&nbsp;</p><p>Then, in August 2012, the outsourcing giant Capita bought Reliance and absorbed it into the Capita subsidiary&nbsp;<a href="http://www.tascor.co.uk/what-we-do/immigration-and-border/">Tascor</a>&nbsp;which claims to be “the largest private sector provider of secure immigration detainee escorting worldwide…Tascor manages and operates a number of the Home Office critical front line support functions….and are responsible for the safe and secure escorting and removal of more than 18,000 individuals from the UK each year.”&nbsp;</p><p><span>In 2014 prisons inspector Nick Hardwick observed that Tascor guards deporting people from Britain treated them as</span><span>&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jun/02/deportees-prisons-inspector-tascor-private-security-staff">“commodities to be delivered rather than as vulnerable individuals deserving of attention”</a><span>.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Hardwick said: “some Tascor private security staff made loud animal noises, swore loudly in front of deportees and fell asleep, despite being in charge of someone identified as at risk of self-harm.”</p><p>Hardwick expressed concern that the private security escorts knew little of the outcome of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/jul/09/jimmy-mubenga-unlawfully-killed-inquest-jury">inquiry into the death of Jimmy Mubenga</a>&nbsp;while being restrained during a scheduled flight removal in 2010:&nbsp;“Escorts had still not been provided with training on the use of force in confined environments such as aircraft two-and-a-half years since inspectors first recommended it.”&nbsp;</p><p>It was Capita that facilitated the Home Office’s notorious “Go Home” campaign of 2013,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/go-home-texts-expose-anti-migrant-british-policy-to-world">sending around 58,000 texts</a>&nbsp;directly to people the Home Office had identified as “living illegally” in the UK. For reasons that have never been explained, the recipients included prominent civil rights activist and longstanding&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/go-home-texts-expose-anti-migrant-british-policy-to-world">British passport holder Suresh Grover</a>.</p><p>As Capita and the Home Office tag and humiliate women asylum seekers in Yorkshire they might ponder the fact that recently the high court ordered&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/19/judge-rules-terror-suspect-tpim-tag-removed-mental-health-concern">the removal of a terror suspect’s monitoring tag</a>&nbsp;because of a deterioration in his mental health. As the Guardian reports: “Requiring him to continue wearing the tag was a breach of article three of the European convention on human rights, which prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment.”&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em>Liked this article? Could you support us with&nbsp;</em></strong><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><strong><em>£3 a month</em></strong></a><strong><em>&nbsp;so that we can keep producing independent journalism?</em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/toddlers-rats-asbestos-g4s-asylum-seekers-landlord">Toddlers, rats, asbestos. G4S, asylum seekers’ landlord</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/destitution-intimidation-how-britain-shirks-its-obligations-to-asylum-seeke">Destitution, intimidation . . . 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What the Mubenga trial jury was not told</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/uk-immigration-detention-truth-is-out">UK immigration detention: the truth is out</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Tue, 30 Jun 2015 23:00:10 +0000 John Grayson 93962 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Toddlers, rats, asbestos. G4S, asylum seekers’ landlord https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/toddlers-rats-asbestos-g4s-asylum-seekers-landlord <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why would the UK government let its commercial contractor get away with housing vulnerable asylum seekers in dangerous slums?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/downthestairs.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/downthestairs.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Inside Jane’s flat</span></span></span></p><p>I went to see Jane in her upstairs flat in Sheffield. She was anxious and panicky. “I put anything I can under the doors,” she said. “The rats run up the stairs, and out of the store cupboard into the living room. I am frightened for the children.” </p> <p>This one-bedroom slum flat is what the UK government considers good enough for a lone parent asylum seeker from Africa, her three year old child and her baby, aged seven months. Jane’s landlord is the government contractor, G4S, the world’s largest security company.</p> <p>Jane’s flat wasn’t easy to find. I was directed by a neighbour through a damaged door only a few feet away from the Sheffield Supertram rails and down a dingy passage.</p> <p>Jane answered her mobile and warned me about the double buggy blocking the steep stairs and her only entrance door. She told me later: “I have to leave it there, I cannot struggle up and down the stairs with it and my two children.” </p> <p>There were child safety gates on the living room and kitchen sides of the stairs, but none at the head of the stairs. Jane said: “I turned my back one day and I found him [her three year old] swinging on a gate over the drop in the stairs. I can’t let him run around and play properly. There’s a hole in the corner of the living room floor. And it’s dangerous outside.” </p> <p>Jane showed me exposed pipework and plugs and wires near the hole in the living room. I had already seen the back yard and the abandoned toilet area where the rats were coming from. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/tramlines.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/tramlines.JPG" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tramlines. “It’s dangerous outside.”</span></span></span>Jane said: “The G4S worker thought the flat was OK and just told me to store the heavy buggy upstairs, he said it’s dangerous to block the stairs if there is a fire.” </p> <p>Jane had been in the flat for three weeks. Over the previous two weeks she had been ringing G4S about the flat and the rats. </p> <p>“Twice they said they were sending pest control – nobody arrived. My neighbour rang for me and still no-one has been.” </p> <p>After I left Jane’s flat I rang the City Council pest control team. They arrived the next day. The council instructed G4S to send their pest control contractor. They finally turned up almost three weeks after Jane’s first calls. </p> <p><span>The Home Office is obliged to provide accommodation for asylum seekers and their families while their cases are being processed.</span></p> <p>In March 2012, the government contracted out these services to three companies, G4S, Serco and Reliance. (There’s a useful summary here: <a href="http://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/10287-001.Executive-Summary.pdf">PDF</a>)</p> <p>G4S, Serco and Reliance were known among asylum seekers as the companies that drove them to detention centres and locked them up.&nbsp;<span>Only Reliance (which formed a joint venture with a housing company) could claim any experience of the asylum housing sector.</span></p><p><span>G4S may be best known for its shambolic work on security at the London Olympics. Among asylum seekers G4S is the company that </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/racist-texts-what-mubenga-trial-jury-was-not-told">killed asylum seeker, Jimmy Mubenga</a><span>.</span></p> <p><span>The new housing arrangements have been a shambles from day one. Over the past three years, </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/john-grayson">here on openDemocracy</a><span>, I have told of children exposed to health risks in </span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/living-with-rats-landlord-g4s">rat-infested homes</a><span>, lone women&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/their-secret-is-out-but-for-g4s-and-friends-%E2%80%98abject-disregard-for-human-dign">intimidated by their landlords</a><span>, a </span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/cockroach-in-baby%E2%80%99s-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s">cockroach in the baby<span>’</span>s bottle</a><span>.</span></p> <p>Jane’s flat is just one of the G4S slum properties in Sheffield that asylum seekers have shown me around over the past weeks.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/tony&#039;s bathroom.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/tony&#039;s bathroom.JPG" alt="" title="" width="440" height="330" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tony’s bathroom</span></span></span></p><p>In a dingy terrace house in a working class suburb of Sheffield I meet Tony, a Palestinian asylum seeker who wearily tells me of his nine years being bounced in and out of immigration detention and around the asylum housing system. Since making his original asylum claim in Bristol in 2006, he has been housed in Cardiff, Plymouth, Birmingham, Peterborough, Ipswich, Nottingham, Rochdale, and a few times in Bristol.</p> <p>Tony has lost the sight in one eye and is losing the sight in the other one. He was living in Bristol and undergoing treatment for kidney trouble at Bristol Royal Infirmary when he got the Home Office order: “I got the letter that I was moving again. They didn’t tell me where I was going.”</p> <p>G4S staff brought him 180 miles north to Sheffield to a filthy back street terrace house. “This house is the worst they have given me in all those years,” Tony said. </p> <p>G4S is obliged to help Tony to travel for essential medical treatment and registration with a local GP, but that hasn’t happened. </p> <p>It’s a ten mile round trip from his new home to the Sheffield eye clinic. I took him there after he showed me the house. Tony told me that in the week he had been in Sheffield, “I was given a map to find advice places and I walked into the city – I had no cash for the bus”. He had to walk four miles into the city centre to a drop-in advice centre and then another four miles back to his house. </p> <p>Tony had no cash, only his government-issued Azure card allowing him a little over £5 a day and only useable at specified supermarkets.</p> <p>How was his new home? “The carpets were dirty, there was rubbish dumped outside at the back, the bathroom was filthy and I was given a room with the furniture broken. They said they wouldn’t take me back to Bristol, I had to stay in the house.”</p> <p>When I contacted Tony a few days later, G4S had brought a vacuum cleaner for Tony to clean the living room he shared with three other tenants. The day after that G4S called back and took the vacuum cleaner away. </p> <p>Earlier this year, at a meeting with a Home Office official, local Sheffield voluntary sector workers were given a copy of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/meet-uk’s-latest-weapon-against-organised-crime-and-asylum-seekers">The Dial</a>, a visual representation of the government’s&nbsp;strategy that treats undocumented migrants as criminals. Part of this strategy is to&nbsp;<span>“Create an environment that makes it harder to enter and live illegally in the UK”.</span></p> <p>Tony is a Section 4 ‘failed asylum seeker’ in Home Office terms, living ‘illegally’ in the UK. Tony is also a very vulnerable human being whose failing health after nine years in the UK’s asylum ‘support’ system makes a mockery of claims that the UK<em> </em>has “<a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/the-slippery-cynical-politics-of-asylum/">a long tradition of providing sanctuary</a> for those fleeing persecution”</p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/The Dial hand out adjust.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/The Dial hand out adjust.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="362" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Dial, part of the Home Office’s armoury in the fight against “immigration crime”.</span></span></span></span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>Balbir is an Asian asylum seeker I met in another G4S asylum property. Balbir told me that he’s been locked up in various immigration detention centres – Dover, Dungavel in Scotland, Campsfield near Oxford, and Morton Hall in Lincolnshire. “I was detained in Harmondsworth; that’s a torture centre not a detention centre,” he said.</span></p> <p>Balbir constantly protested about his treatment over nine long months and was constantly moved, he says, as a punishment. “I was finally released because I proved that I had been trafficked, and the High Court said that trafficked asylum seekers could not be kept in detention centres.”</p> <p>Balbir was sent to asylum housing in Sheffield – to a slum property with a history of rats and disrepair. By this time Balbir could only get out of bed with crutches and was suicidal. (He showed me scars from his self-harming). </p> <p>“My doctors wrote to the Home Office, I had carers visiting three times a day and they officially complained. G4S then moved me to a clean house near to the hospital and my doctors.” </p> <p>Balbir became distressed and angry as he described how G4S had then moved him again to this shared slum house. “They moved me here from a clean house to this filthy place with real risks to my health.” </p> <p>I had seen in the entrance hall an asbestos warning notice posted after an inspection by the council. There was a large hole in the ceiling in the kitchen where an asbestos risk had been detected. Balbir said: “My carers immediately wrote in their log that the kitchen was dangerous and I have had only cold food here for two weeks.”</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/asbestos_notice.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/asbestos_notice.JPG" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A warning at Balbir’s house</span></span></span></p><p>The asylum housing contract demands that when asbestos risks are discovered the Home Office and G4S immediately move people out of the property. That didn’t happen.</p><p>A G4S repair man who came to the house called it the “worst house G4S has in Sheffield”, and said that G4S had sent letters notifying residents that they were to be moved out. Meanwhile,&nbsp;<span>G4S moved Balbir in and kept him there despite medical evidence of harm.&nbsp;</span><span>He told me: “In the last month my doctors have sent five letters to the Home Office about my worsening health and the housing I have been forced into.”</span></p> <p><span>I added my protest to G4S. The company is well aware that I write about these matters&nbsp;</span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/john-grayson">here on openDemocracy</a><span>&nbsp;and that I help local reporters and the housing press.</span></p> <p>Balbir has since been moved to staffed accommodation suitable for his conditions, provided by a G4S specialist housing contractor. In a phone call he confirmed to me that at last he felt safe and cared for in his new accommodation. </p> <p>Every move of asylum seekers around detention centres and from asylum housing addresses has to be pre-authorised by the Home Office. Public servants and corporate executives are complicit in exposing people to shoddy treatment around the slums of Sheffield.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/alan_collapsed_ceiling_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/alan_collapsed_ceiling_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="440" height="330" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alan’s ceiling</span></span></span></p> <p>Alan, a young man from the Middle East, lives in another G4S slum in Sheffield. He and six other asylum seekers – from Ivory Coast, Sudan, Palestine, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan —&nbsp;each have a single room. Alan claimed asylum three years ago. He’d been detained for three months, then stayed with friends, and finally he was given asylum housing in the Greater Manchester area. “It was really good quality one of the flats I stayed in was new,” he told me. “At home I had a background in the arts so I enrolled on a college course.”</p> <p>For personal reasons Alan asked for a move to the Sheffield area. “I was shocked when I arrived at this house. There were rats there. I discovered them on the first floor in my room and other rooms. We killed a few and got G4S to put poison down.” </p> <p>It wasn’t just the rats. “For the past two months there has been a hole in the kitchen ceiling,” Alan told me. “It collapsed after a major leak from a shower above. For the past two weeks the other shower has been out of action and we have all had to get showers at friends, or at the gym at college.”</p> <p>Outs<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/alan&#039;s_back_yard_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/alan&#039;s_back_yard_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alan’s back yard</span></span></span>ide, near the back door, Alan showed me a filthy stagnant pool. </p> <p>It’s not as if G4S and its subcontractor didn’t know things were this bad. Balbir had lived here. His carers had complained about the conditions, so G4S had moved him on. Alan said the men’s complaints to G4S and the subcontractor were ignored.</p> <p><span>Why not provide decent housing?</span></p> <p>My years of research and reporting, the conditions I have witnessed and the tenants I have listened to convince me that these degrading and dangerous conditions are not just a matter of incompetence and failed compassion.</p> <p><span>It’s worse than that. On paper — the G4S Home Office contract — the company is obliged to provide accommodation that meets the </span><a href="http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/repairs_and_bad_conditions/repairs_in_social_housing/the_decent_home_standard">“Decent Homes Standard”</a><span> that applies to all council and housing association homes.</span></p> <p>It’s not a hard standard to reach. A home must meet minimum safety standards.&nbsp;Among the obvious no-nos are broken glass, damaged asbestos, blocked drains, dampness, mould growth, rats, cockroaches. The home must be in a reasonable state of repair, have reasonably modern facilities and services, efficient heating, effective insulation. Any&nbsp;home that does not meet all four criteria fails the standard.</p> <p>So why does the Home Office allow G4S to house asylum seekers in rat-infested slums?</p> <p>Here are some clues. In October 2014 Lord Hylton asked the government: “what naval or air-sea rescue contribution they will make to prevent refugees and migrants drowning in the Mediterranean?”</p> <p>The Foreign Office minister Baroness Anelay gave <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201415/ldhansrd/text/141015w0001.htm">this written reply</a>: “We do not support planned search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. We believe that they create an unintended ‘pull factor’, encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths.”</p> <p>Let’s reflect on that. If rescuing fellow human beings is a “pull factor”, is letting them drown a useful deterrent?</p> <p>In September 2009, Dave Wood, who bore the title “Director of Criminality and Detention” at the UK Border Agency, was called before<a href="http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmhaff/970/09091604.htm"> the Home Affairs Committee.</a> They asked him: “Why are children detained under the immigration system, because they have not done anything wrong, have they?”</p> <p>Wood explained that the lack of detention “<a href="http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmhaff/970/09091604.htm">would act as a significant magnet and pull to families from abroad”.</a></p> <p>Letting people drown, locking up innocent children, forcing people to live in slum dwellings with cockroaches and rats, it’s all part of the same shameful game: deterrence.</p><hr /><p><strong><em>All photography by John Grayson. Asylum seekers' names have been changed. Liked this article? Could you support us with&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate">£3 a month</a>&nbsp;so that we can keep producing independent journalism?</em></strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/meet-uk-s-latest-weapon-against-organised-crime-and-asylum-seekers">Meet the UK’s latest weapon against organised crime and asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/one-bath-for-12-women-and-11-babies-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s">One bath for 12 women and 11 babies: UK asylum housing by G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/destitution-intimidation-how-britain-shirks-its-obligations-to-asylum-seeke">Destitution, intimidation . . . How Britain shirks its obligations to asylum-seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/five-lessons-britain-must-learn-from-botched-privatisation-of-asylum-housin">Five lessons Britain must learn from the botched privatisation of asylum housing</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/how-to-use-housing-to-hurt-people-britains-hostile-environment-for-asylum-s">How to use housing to hurt people: Britain&#039;s hostile environment for asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/go-home-texts-expose-anti-migrant-british-policy-to-world">&#039;Go Home&#039; texts expose anti-migrant British policy to the world</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Tue, 16 Jun 2015 23:00:10 +0000 John Grayson 93524 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Meet the UK’s latest weapon against organised crime and asylum seekers https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/meet-uk-s-latest-weapon-against-organised-crime-and-asylum-seekers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Tools and rhetoric designed to combat terrorism and serious crime are being deployed against asylum seekers and people who work with them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/The Dial hand out_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/The Dial hand out_2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="467" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Take a look at this. It’s part of the Home Office’s armoury in the fight against “immigration crime”. They call it The Dial. </p><p><span>It’s</span>&nbsp;stamped with the National Crime Agency logo, and, among others,&nbsp;<span>HM Prison Service, HM Revenue &amp; Customs, and the gigantic&nbsp;</span><span>international data company Experian.</span></p><p><span><span>The Dial is about tactics. They include:</span>&nbsp;“Prosecute and disrupt Organised Crime Groups”,&nbsp;</span><span>and&nbsp;</span><span>“Run community engagement surgeries to strengthen the message”.</span></p><p>Huh? Community engagement to tackle organised crime? </p><p>It’s all explained on the reverse:</p><blockquote><p>“The Dial is a visual representation of our strategic objectives showing the wide range of tactics that we need to deploy in order to effectively drive down immigration crime. Our collective use of intelligence is at the heart of the approach which we then use to select the most effective responses to any given threat…a flexible system that we can ‘dial up’ in response to emerging threats or ministerial priorities.”</p></blockquote><p><span>I volunteer among asylum seekers in the north of England. I have never knowingly had any contact with organised crime groups. The asylum seekers and their families I work alongside in South Yorkshire are by no stretch of the imagination “an emerging threat”.</span></p><p>So I was surprised, to say the least, when a senior Home Office official handed out The Dial to some representatives from Sheffield charities at a recent meeting.</p><p>Let’s recall who asylum seekers are and why they are here. The 1951 UN Convention ensures protection for people who have a “well-founded fear of persecution” because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a particular groups. The Home Office is responsible for deciding whether an asylum applicant should be recognised as a refugee under the terms of the convention. </p><p>Protections for refugees have got nothing at all to do with organised crime. That’s something else, something completely different. So why is the government trying to conflate the two? </p><h2>A meeting with the Home Office</h2><p>There’s a lot of concern around Sheffield about a steep deterioration in the way that asylum seekers are being treated at the Home Office’s Sheffield base, Vulcan House, an office block by the River Don, where asylum seekers are obliged to sign in regularly. </p><p>Volunteers who escort ‘failed’ asylum seekers and people waiting for outcomes of appeals have been &nbsp;treated contemptuously there.</p><p>A retired teacher from Barnsley, who is an experienced volunteer, told me what happened when he accompanied a South Asian family on a recent visit to Vulcan House: “As soon as I entered the building I was shouted at to ‘identify’ myself. One of the staff spoke to me as if I was a child. ‘If you’re not their lawyer what are you doing here? Get over there out of the way and don’t interfere.’”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Graffiti,Birmingham2011_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Graffiti,Birmingham2011_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Graffiti, Birmingham 2011 Adam Yosef / I Am Birmingham</span></span></span></p><p>Officials have been handing out compulsory questionnaires (in English) to asylum seekers, demanding comprehensive personal and family information from people signing. </p><p>The Home Office wants to know, not just any addresses where the asylum seeker has stayed, but also details of everyone else at these addresses. Asylum seekers are obliged to tell the Home Office if they are doing any voluntary work and, if so, where. </p><p>Sheffield asylum rights charities had sought a meeting with Home Office staff from Vulcan House to talk about these matters.</p><p>A meeting took place in February on the neutral ground of local MP Paul Blomfield’s office on an industrial estate not far from Sheffield United’s Bramhall Lane stadium. </p><p>The representatives were surprised to find that the Home Office had sent along its head of the ‘Reporting Centres’ for asylum seekers across Yorkshire and the North East region of the UK. </p><p>The charity people raised their concerns. The&nbsp;<span>senior officer from the Home Office was apparently in no mood to apologise for her staff or give any ground to “you voluntary organisations”. Instead, she brusquely handed out copies of The Dial.</span></p><p>Then she read out a lecture about her exercise of powers under the new Immigration Act of 2014 (checking on addresses and landlords who housed illegal immigrants) and hinting that anyone (not just landlords) giving assistance to illegal immigrants in the future might find themselves subject to the law. She also threatened the representatives with the prospect of an order “at present on the Minister’s desk waiting to be signed off” banning volunteer escorts from all Reporting Centres.</p><h2>Tackling terrorism</h2><p>Around The Dial are the four Ps —&nbsp;Pursue Prevent Protect Prepare.</p><ul><li><span>This is the language of the government’s anti-terrorism strategy, known as Contest, explained </span><a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/97994/contest-summary.pdf">here</a>&nbsp;(PDF<span>)</span><span>:&nbsp;</span><span>“Our counter-terrorism strategy will continue to be organised around four workstreams, each comprising a number of key objectives:</span></li><li><span>Pursue: to stop terrorist attacks;</span></li><li><span>Prevent: to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism;</span></li><li><span>Protect: to strengthen our protection against a terrorist attack; and</span></li><li><span>Prepare: to mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack.”</span></li></ul><ul><li><span><p>When, in 2013, the Coalition government launched its&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/about-us/what-we-do/organised-crime-command">National Crime Agency (NCA)</a>&nbsp;to “make the UK a hostile environment for serious and organised criminals”, there were the four Ps again.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GoHome-580x280_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GoHome-580x280_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="193" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Go Home van, touring London boroughs, Summer 2013</span></span></span></p></span></li></ul><ul><li><span><p>The term “hostile environment” has a particularly ugly resonance —&nbsp;it has long been part of the language of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pestfreeproducts.co.uk/page/news">rodent control</a>.&nbsp;<span>So why is this rhetoric being invoked against asylum-seekers and other respectable, law-abiding people in Sheffield who work with them?</span></p><h2><span>The hostile environment</span></h2></span></li></ul><p>In Chapter five of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www2.labour.org.uk/uploads/TheLabourPartyManifesto-2010.pdf">Labour party’s 2010 election manifesto</a>, entitled “Crime and Immigration” (author:&nbsp;<span>Ed Miliband)</span><span>&nbsp;you can read this: “We will continue to make Britain a hostile place for organised criminals.”&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>Then, in the very next paragraph: “Our borders are stronger than ever. A new Border Agency has police-level powers and thousands more immigration officers. . .”</span></p><p>In 2010 a<a href="http://madkazemi.blogspot.co.uk/2010/02/we-must-investigate-uk-border-agency.html">&nbsp;Home Office whistle blower</a>&nbsp;called Louise Perrett exposed the racist culture at the Cardiff UK Border Agency. A soft toy gorilla called a ‘grant monkey’, was placed on the desk of any officer who approved an asylum application, as a mark of shame. One method used to determine the authenticity of an asylum seeker claiming to be from North Korea&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/feb/02/border-staff-asylum-seekers-whistleblower">was to ask whether the person ate chop suey</a>.</p><p>In May 2012 Coalition Home Secretary Theresa May&nbsp;<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/9291483/Theresa-May-interview-Were-going-to-give-illegal-migrants-a-really-hostile-reception.html">told the&nbsp;<em>Telegraph</em></a><em>:</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><blockquote><p>“The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration. Work is under way to deny illegal immigrants access to work, housing and services, even bank accounts. What we don’t want is a situation where people think that they can come here and overstay because they’re able to access everything they need.”&nbsp;</p></blockquote><p><span>Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather in 2013</span><span>&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2013/jul/12/sarah-teather-angry-voices-immigration">disclosed</a><span>&nbsp;</span><span>that the Coalition government had, “on the explicit instructions of the prime minister”, brought together a group of ministers called “the hostile environment working group – its job being to make Britain a hostile environment to unwanted immigrants.”</span></p><p>In 2013, as part of its hostile environment strategy, the Home Office <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/welcome-to-britain-go-home-or-face-arrest">sent vans touring London boroughs</a> bearing the message: “In the UK illegally? Go Home or Face Arrest.” </p><p>That phrase: “Go Home”.&nbsp;<span>Down the decades, m</span><span>igrants and their descendants have heard it from racists</span><span>.</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Glasgow_go_home_0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Glasgow_go_home_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="225" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>UK Border Agency Office, Glasgow Broad Street, September 2013</span></span></span></p><p>In Glasgow, vistors to the Home Office’s Broad Street offices were assailed by gigantic posters declaring:&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/robina-qureshi/we-all-belong-to-glasgow-refugees-are-welcome-here">“Is life here hard? Going home is simple.”</a>&nbsp;Chairs in the waiting room bore the message “Ask about going home.”</p><p>Then came the government texts, sent by outsourcer Capita direct to peoples mobile phones, telling them: “You are required to leave the UK as you no longer have right to remain.” </p><p>For reasons that have never been satisfactorily explained, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/go-home-texts-expose-anti-migrant-british-policy-to-world">one recipient was the civil rights activist Suresh Grover</a>, who has lived in Britain for fifty years and holds a British passport. Another was Bobby Chan, an accredited immigration adviser at a central London law centre.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Homeofficeimage2-640x300_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Homeofficeimage2-640x300_2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="188" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Home Office text, sent by Capita, October 2013</span></span></span></p><p>Then came the Immigration Act in 2014, making doctors, teachers, landlords and health vistors agents of immigration control.</p><p>The current induction training programme for immigration staff employed by the Home Office starts with a section labelled “Combat” and addresses the personal security risks associated with contact with immigrants and asylum seekers, according to people who have seen it.</p><p>The Sheffield meeting ended with a blunt statement of intent from the senior officer from the Home Office: “We are not going to allow people to have a comfortable life here when they should return to their countries of origin.”</p><p class="paddingtonpresslist"><strong><em>Think this piece matters? Please donate to OurKingdom </em></strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><strong><em>here </em></strong></a><strong><em>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</em></strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><h2>Notes &amp; references</h2><p>Decca Aitkenhead <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2013/jul/12/sarah-teather-angry-voices-immigration">‘Sarah Teather: I’m angry there are no alternative voices on immigration’</a> The Guardian 12 July 2013<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>John Grayson <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/the-shameful-go-home-campaign/">‘The shameful ‘Go Home’ campaign’</a> IRR News 22 August 2013<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Bethan Jenkins AM <a href="http://madikazemi.blogspot.co.uk/2010/02/we-must-investigate-uk-border-agency.html">‘We must investigate UK Border Agency allegations'</a> @ LGBT Asylum News 20 February 2010</p><ul><li><span>CONTEST summary issued in July 2011 (</span><a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/97994/contest-summary.pdf">PDF here</a><span>)</span></li></ul><ul><li><span><strong><br /></strong></span></li><li><span><strong>The names on The Dial:</strong></span></li><li><span>The National Crime Agency is one of eight government departments and agencies whose logos appear underneath The Dial. The others are: HM Prison Service, the Department of Work &amp; Pensions, UK Visa &amp; Immigration, the Driver &amp; Vehicle Licensing Agency, the Foreign &amp; Commonwealth Office, HM Revenue &amp; Customs.</span></li></ul><p><span>In among them is the international data company: Experian, which calls itself an “information powerhouse”, with annual revenues of $4.8bn (March 2014), 16,000 employees worldwide and headquarters in Nottingham, England.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/robina-qureshi/we-all-belong-to-glasgow-refugees-are-welcome-here">We all belong to Glasgow - Refugees Are Welcome Here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/les-back-and-shamser-sinha/welcome-to-britain-go-home-and-have-pleasant-journey">Welcome to Britain. Go Home. And have a pleasant journey</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/welcome-to-britain-go-home-or-face-arrest">Welcome to Britain: &#039;Go Home or Face Arrest&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nando-sigona/uk-migration-policy-we-need-to-talk-about-citizens">UK migration policy: we need to talk about citizens</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/juan-camilo/experts-oppose-migrant-healthcare-proposals-will-government-listen">Experts oppose migrant healthcare proposals - will government listen?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/britain-has-become-open-prison-to-migrants">Britain has become an open prison to migrants</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/deportation-increasingly-foreign-britain-at-war-with-itself">Deportation: an increasingly &#039;foreign&#039; Britain at war with itself</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/simon-parker/press-hysteria-and-uk-government-migration-research-contagious-syndrome">Press hysteria and UK government migration research: a contagious syndrome</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Mon, 16 Mar 2015 00:00:57 +0000 John Grayson 91267 at https://www.opendemocracy.net One bath for 12 women and 11 babies: UK asylum housing by G4S https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/one-bath-for-12-women-and-11-babies-uk-asylum-housing-by-g4s <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On a suburban street in Leeds, security company G4S packs 23 women and children into one house with a single bathroom.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/disused—fire—escape_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/disused—fire—escape_0.JPG" alt="" title="" width="420" height="404" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>G4S Villa, Leeds, 2015</span></span></span></p><p>One bright February morning Violet Dickenson and I visit Mary, a young refugee mother. Mary lives in a Victorian villa on a leafy street in Leeds. From the outside it looks impressive, a grand three-storey mansion, with stained glass. Inside there are sweeping balustrades and staircases and once grand carpets, but throughout the smell of dust, dirt and neglect. </p> <p>It was Violet, working with refugee women in South Yorkshire, who alerted me to conditions at the house. We are volunteer activists with SYMAAG (South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group). </p> <p><span>Mary shows us up to the first floor, to the only bathroom with a bath in the whole house. That’s one bathroom for twelve women, eight babies and three toddlers.</span></p> <p>Most of the women have been here for nearly five months, they tell us. Each woman and her children have one room. A Syrian refugee has been given a first floor room with her toddler son. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/curtains hung on wire.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/curtains hung on wire.JPG" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>When the women arrived, some with babies only weeks old, the filthy rambling mansion had been stood empty for many months. Cots were provided for some rooms but not others. For the first three weeks one downstairs room had no curtains at all. The G4S staff who’d been entrusted with the families’ care gave no safety information on arrival — no fire regulations or escape routes were posted in rooms. A heavily pregnant young woman was allotted the smallest, an L-shaped room with dirty curtains hanging loosely from a cord. (left)</p> <p>Amy (not her real name) a young mother from the Far East who had arrived with her new baby at the house, said: “The G4S escort left me no information, he did not even tell me where the toilets and kitchens were.” Amy said she didn’t mind the old desk left in her room, “I can do my homework there from my English class”, and now she could translate a little for the other two women in the other ground floor rooms.</p> <p>Friends had given her a play-mat to lay over the carpet left in the room Amy said: “I could not put my baby on that carpet.”</p> <p>The women had to scrub the dirty carpets the best they could, clean grime-encrusted window frames. They tried to tackle the vast dusty curtains hanging in the high ceilinged rooms near to their babies’ cots. The women who must survive on a paltry allowance granted by the Home Office of between £7 and £5.50 a day for a mother and baby, had to buy all the cleaning materials themselves. Some of the tasks defeated them —&nbsp;the curtains were simply too high, some of the grime resisted their scrubbing. </p><p>In the middle of winter the heating went off every night and their friends brought in portable heaters.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/downstairs_shower2.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/downstairs_shower2.JPG" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>In the two kitchens cookers were left in a dangerous unhygienic state. The women had scrubbed the toilets and made them safe for the children. They kept the ogne bath in the house really clean; it was obviously well used. The women rescued one shower on each of the floors, a filthy ground floor shower constantly leaking had to be abandoned.&nbsp;</p> <p>Complaints were constantly relayed to the G4S helpline and the local workers but there was no response – no cleaning of the expanses of dirty carpets and stairs – nor the shower. There was one ancient vacuum cleaner and a brush and dustpan, a mop and bucket. A record of inspections by G4S posted in the hall showed the last one was on 13 November 2014.&nbsp;</p> <p>I talked to Mary (not her real name) an African asylum seeker in her crowded high-ceilinged room. Mary had been supported by a women’s refugee group in Sheffield and I had protested to G4S about her accommodation there. Mary had managed briefly to get on a university course, but had been moved from West Yorkshire in the final months of her first pregnancy, forty miles away in Sheffield, to a box-room shared with a stranger, in a house with other women. She went from her box room to have her baby in hospital. G4S had told me that Mary was on ‘Section 4’ as a ‘failed’ asylum seeker and had been given ‘no choice’ housing in a female household. </p> <p>Section 4 support is given if an asylum seeker is appealing against a negative decision on their asylum claim and sometimes when people (particularly families) cannot immediately be deported to their country of origin. The Home Office makes financial support conditional on accepting whatever accommodation is offered, regardless of its condition.</p> <p>The Home Office agreed to move Mary back nearer to her support network. This in fact meant taking Mary and her new born baby from the hospital to a filthy tiny room in the Victorian villa twelve miles away from her friends. Mary managed to get into a next door larger room and set about cleaning the place. After a few weeks of waiting, G4S delivered a cot.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/crammed_belongings.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/crammed_belongings.JPG" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>There were no lockable cupboards in the kitchen and only a small wardrobe and chest of drawers in Mary’s room — so everything, including food, was stacked in the room or in her small fridge. Mary’s personal belongings were still in Sheffield. She told me “I rang G4S time and time again to get my things. I waited three months for them to be delivered here.” When her belongings did finally arrive she had to store them under beds and cots and in corners of her room.</p> <p>Mary tells me: “Going to the kitchen and bathroom means a walk through three doors and a corridor and I am too far away to hear any cries from my baby, so my baby goes with me even when I carry hot food back to our room.” Mary showed me the steep winding “back stairs” originally meant for the servants. </p> <p>Only one staircase has toddler gates. The other is open; toddlers can crawl up to the old (boarded up) servant rooms. </p> <p>Mary said “I leave the buggy at the bottom of the main stairs in the house and bring shopping, and my baby up many times to unload”. Lately a neighbour on the street has been doing some shopping for Mary and bringing it to the house. I calculated that frequent journey upstairs as about 100 metres each way. Mary said the whole house was “impossible” for babies and small children.&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*no_cleaning.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*no_cleaning.JPG" alt="" title="" width="400" height="290" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The last inspection</span></span></span></p><p>I was hearing stories familiar to me since 2012 when the Coalition government privatised asylum housing. G4S, who won the Yorkshire and North East contracts, immediately started treating any children under school age as not existing for accommodation purposes; and wherever possible one, or even two small children, had to share one bedroom with their mother. As the contract started G4S’s first-choice contractor UPM (United Property Management) had to be withdrawn for <a href="http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2012-06-01-Mother-and-baby-dumped-in-unsuitable-flat-by-Border-Agency-subcontractor">sending a sick baby and his mother to an overheated slum bedsit in Doncaster</a>. The Home Office authorised the move and made them stay in the slum flat for two months. The family was rescued only when Doncaster Council threatened to rehouse mother and baby as homeless.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*buggies_flights of stairs.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/*buggies_flights of stairs.JPG" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Mothers and babies and toddlers have been moved into houses <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/cockroach-in-babys-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s">infested with cockroaches</a>, forced to live for <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/living-with-rats-landlord-g4s">six months with rats</a>, and dumped in what mothers described as ‘cells’ in <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/g4s-jomast-stockton-hostel-and-the-mother-and-baby-market/">a Stockton mother and baby hostel</a>. Women asylum seekers have over three years had the courage to stand up against a G4S regime which degrades and disrespects them and blights the first months of their children’s lives. The women I met in the squalid mansion were eager to tell me about how they had been treated by G4S and the Home Office. They had come together when they heard we were coming. They had obviously worked together to support each other over the five months they had been there. We had active interpreters speaking and translating in Arabic, Chinese and English.</p> <p>A <a href="http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/news-views/press-release/woeful-asylum-support-pushes-children-and-families-destitution">Parliamentary inquiry into asylum support</a>, public hearings and reports from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/after-mubenga-unlawful-killing-verdict-could-asylum-seekers-have-worse-landl">Home Affairs</a> and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/five-lessons-britain-must-learn-from-botched-privatisation-of-asylum-housing">Public Accounts</a> select committees have heavily criticised G4S for this shabby treatment of asylum housing tenants, and they (with Serco) have been fined for their failures on the contracts. </p> <p>Regardless of all that, G4S and Serco have been allowed to continue&nbsp; through to 2017 and probably to 2019 to ensure that a very <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/the-shameful-go-home-campaign/">hostile environment</a> applies in asylum housing to deter new asylum seekers considering coming to the U.K.</p> <p>In November 2013 the Coram Children’s’ Legal Centre in its Report “Growing up in a hostile environment” (<a href="http://www.childrenslegalcentre.com/userfiles/Hostile_Environment_Full_Report_Final.pdf">PDF here</a>) estimated that there were around 10,000 children living on asylum support. Coram quotes the Children’s Society Parliamentary Inquiry:</p> <p>“The current levels of support provided to families are too low to meet children’s essential living needs, let alone their wider needs to learn, grow and develop.” (p.3).</p> <p>Despite a campaign by <a href="http://www.refugee-action.org.uk/support_us/campaign/join_a_campaign/1152_bring_back_dignity_to_our_asylum_support_system">Refugee Action and others</a> Theresa May the Home Secretary again in 2014 refused to raise these support rates, frozen since 2011. </p> <p>That’s because creating a hostile environment for asylum seeker children is deliberate government policy to deter future asylum seekers and their children. </p> <p>The Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather in 2013 <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2013/jul/12/sarah-teather-angry-voices-immigration">disclosed</a> that the Coalition government had set up an inter-department ministerial group: “On the explicit instructions of the prime minister, it was called the hostile environment working group,” Teather said, “its job being to make Britain a hostile environment to unwanted immigrants.” </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/downstairs_shower.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/downstairs_shower.JPG" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>But the number of asylum seekers is rising, propelled by permanent wars and violence in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Eritrea and Yemen. G4S and the other contractors have responded by packing asylum seekers in overcrowded houses or <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/destitution-intimidation-how-britain-shirks-its-obligations-to-asylumseekers">resorting to hotels</a> where the health and security of children is put at risk. The G4S hostel in Stockton, on Teesside, with its ‘cells’ has doubled in capacity to 64 mothers with babies and toddlers. G4S has decided that overcrowded ‘female HMOs’ (houses in multiple occupation) is the future for pregnant women asylum seekers and their babies and toddlers. G4S have been <a href="http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/Plans-asylum-seeker-hostels-Derby-cool-response/story-23035061-detail/story.html#ixzz3RLNVAizy">buying homes and community buildings in Derby</a> to convert to profitable asylum hostels. Local opposition in Derby to one of the hostels is aimed at G4S – not the asylum seekers. </p> <p>The <em>Derby Telegraph </em>quotes local resident Barry Seward, 47, who lives in Stepping Lane:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p><span>“Bringing more people into the area will bring the associated problems with it. I don’t care one iota which country these people could come from and have every sympathy with whatever reason they may choose to flee from their own country. But housing them all together in one, let’s be frank here, quite cramped building, isn’t the best thing for them either. I don’t agree with it.”</span></p></blockquote> <p><span>Other vulnerable asylum seekers are getting the same treatment as women and their babies – traumatised and disabled asylum seekers of the same sex are being forced to share bedrooms in Sheffield flats and HMOs (houses in multiple occupation).</span></p> <p><span>The regional Initial Accommodation Centre (IAC) for Yorkshire and the North East, Urban House, formerly known as Angel Lodge, stands in the grounds of high security Wakefield prison. It’s being expanded to hold 300 people and has exactly two rooms adapted for disabled asylum seekers.</span></p> <p><span>As Violet and I were leaving through the back door of the house (the front door was permanently locked) we noticed a badly maintained security light: all through the winter months, we were told, the yard was dark and threatening.</span></p> <p>There was an abandoned fire escape and at its top a permanently open door, leading to the second floor an invitation to intruders. Violet shouted to me and pointed to the base of the fire escape. She had seen two big rats shoot out from the weeds, and run under the windows and then disappear under the house. </p> <p><strong><em>Think this piece matters? Please donate to OurKingdom </em></strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><strong><em>here </em></strong></a><strong><em>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</em></strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span>Author's note: Thanks to Violet Dickenson.&nbsp;</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/uk-immigration-detention-truth-is-out">UK immigration detention: the truth is out</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/destitution-intimidation-how-britain-shirks-its-obligations-to-asylum-seeke">Destitution, intimidation . . . How Britain shirks its obligations to asylum-seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/five-lessons-britain-must-learn-from-botched-privatisation-of-asylum-housin">Five lessons Britain must learn from the botched privatisation of asylum housing</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/how-to-use-housing-to-hurt-people-britains-hostile-environment-for-asylum-s">How to use housing to hurt people: Britain&#039;s hostile environment for asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/uk-watchdog-takes-another-bite-out-of-failing-outsourcer-g4s">UK watchdog takes another bite out of failing outsourcer G4S</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Sat, 07 Mar 2015 00:11:36 +0000 John Grayson 91061 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Destitution, intimidation . . . How Britain shirks its obligations to asylum-seekers https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/destitution-intimidation-how-britain-shirks-its-obligations-to-asylum-seeke <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Filthy showers, uncleared rubbish, mice infestation. The quality of housing provided to asylum seekers by&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">commercial contractors</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;is poor indeed, but good enough for the Home Office.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/yard_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/yard_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Back yard of a G4S house in Sheffield (Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p>Ibrahim is a Syrian refugee living in asylum housing in South Yorkshire. His accommodation is run for the government by the security company, G4S. Ibrahim told his story at one of a series of campaign meetings held by asylum rights organisations in Sheffield and Doncaster this past summer to persuade local councils to help and resettle Syrians. Ibrahim had been waiting six months already — not for a decision on his asylum claim, but for his initial interview to set out his case. </p> <p>In the North of England there are dozens, probably hundreds of Syrians, some with children, who over the past year have waited and waited for their first interview, dumped in overcrowded slum housing on a meagre income.</p> <p>Ibrahim was trafficked into the UK. There are more than a hundred Syrians at present in Calais trying to reach families in the UK. Ibrahim’s wife and children are trapped in Egypt without documents, unable even to receive money from banks or money services. They have been told to leave Egypt and their only <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/alison-whyte/%E2%80%8Edontletthemdrown%E2%80%AC-it%E2%80%99s-all-right-for-some-at-sea">exit route will be by sea</a>. Ibrahim is distraught. <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-2756690/As-700-migrants-feared-drowned-Mediterranean.html">Seven hundred migrants died in the Mediterranean</a> in September, amongst them Syrians fleeing from the Libyan and Egyptian coasts. </p> <h3><strong>Francois</strong></h3> <p>Francois is African, now in G4S asylum housing in South Yorkshire. He has recently emerged from two months in a UK detention centre. On arriving by air he was advised by French speaking African groups in a northern city to claim asylum. He borrowed money and travelled by coach to Lunar House in Croydon, the UK visas and immigration headquarters, to register his claim for asylum. Without warning he was handcuffed and told that he would be detained. </p><p>He described the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/man-84-dies-handcuffed-in-hospital-uk-border-control-by-geo-group">detention centre, Harmondsworth</a>, near London’s Heathrow airport, as being like a prison. He says he was locked in a shared cell for twelve hours a day. For one two-week period he was confined to the cell block, unable to get out into the open air. </p> <p>Francois was placed on the ‘fast track’, a means by which the Home Office can rapidly deport people new arrivals seeking asylum. (This ‘fast track’ was recently <a href="http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2014/07/09/high-court-could-knock-down-asylum-detention-programme">declared unlawful</a>; the Home Office is appealing.) </p> <p>Although Francois is French-speaking, the official documents were given to him in English. Despite suffering from clinical depression he received no medical support in detention from staff, and no interpreter. Fortunately for Francois, the charity Medical Justice obtained medical help for him and a volunteer support worker. They and his solicitor persuaded the Home Office that Francois had grounds for a new asylum claim.</p> <h3><strong>Mohammed</strong></h3> <p>I spoke by phone to Mohammed. He is housed at the initial accommodation centre in Birmingham that’s run by G4S, the world’s biggest security company (which continues to win UK government contracts, despite repeated failures and being the subject of a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24805255">criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office</a>). After a maximum of 21 days at the centre Mohammed is supposed to be moved on to asylum housing. But for four months now he has been bounced between the accommodation centre and an expensive city hotel.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/mouse.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/mouse.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mouse droppings, G4S house, Sheffield (Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <h3><strong>Shafiq</strong></h3> <p>Shafiq spoke to me in a night shelter on the edge of Coventry city centre, at an afternoon meeting of asylum seekers sharing food and support. He told me how he led a boycott of meals at the G4S-run Birmingham accommodation centre: “Around twenty of us had had enough. A slice of toast and tea for breakfast, a little rice with tasteless stuff for other meals …the meals were disgusting.” Shafiq said that the catering people blamed the tiny amount of money they were given to spend.</p> <h3><strong>Juliet</strong></h3> <p>In a terraced house in Sheffield Juliet told me about her time in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/how-to-use-housing-to-hurt-people-britains-hostile-environment-for-asylum-se">&nbsp;Angel Lodge</a>, the G4S-run initial accommodation centre in the grounds of Wakefield prison. Placed there with her new born baby, she was appalled at the quality of food – and frightened too. One day in March, she said, <em>all </em>the children went down with food poisoning. “We did not complain, we were worried what would happen to us if we did.”</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/stairs.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/stairs.JPG" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Juliet had been trafficked from West Africa into sex work in the UK. She escaped and claimed asylum. She was then sent to Angel Lodge and on to G4S asylum housing in Sheffield. When she was still recovering from her Caesarean G4S dumped Juliet and her baby in a tiny attic room with two flights of steep winding stairs (see picture, left). There was no safety gate nor a secure door to the attic. </p> <p>When she arrived at the property Juliet asked not to be left there. G4S said she was on a waiting list for more suitable accommodation and told her sleeping downstairs in the shared lounge was against the rules. Juliet, with her fear of authority, complied and descended into major depression. </p> <p>She had escaped her traffickers and claimed asylum but still all her asylum claim documents were sent to her with the name the traffickers had given her on the false passport they had used. The Home Office knew her real name which she had put on her claim; she had protested, but still her trafficked name kept appearing at her letter box. She was left in these conditions for four months until campaigners alerted Sheffield council who served a notice on the property. Only then did G4S move her. </p> <h3><strong>A toxic debate</strong></h3> <p>Ibrahim, Francois, Juliet, Mohammed and Shafiq have joined the expanding G4S asylum housing population at a time when the debate around immigration is especially toxic and the provision of housing to asylum seekers is being degraded through privatisation. </p> <p>UK governments have been “dispersing” asylum seekers from London and the South East to the old industrial areas of the North, the Midlands, Scotland and Wales since 2000. In 2012 the Home Office packaged up asylum housing as a market and awarded contracts to G4S, Serco and Reliance. Through 2013 and 2014 flows of refugees have been increasing in particular from war torn Syria, Eritrea and ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In June 2014 national figures for asylum housing were up 36 per cent from the start of the privatisation contracts in 2012 (from 20,594 to 27,963), South Yorkshire saw an increase of 56 per cent (from 1085 to 1688).There were around 400 people in asylum housing in Barnsley in June and around 700 in Sheffield by October. Of course not all those claiming asylum seek support and accommodation, so numbers of refugees claiming asylum will be significantly higher.</p> <p>This rise in numbers comes at a time when politicians and the media have constructed a toxic discourse around immigration. For the first time for many years the term “asylum seekers” is again being demonised alongside “illegals”, ”migrants”, “foreigners”, or “immigrants”. &nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/boardedup.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/boardedup.JPG" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>G4S houses, Sheffield</span></span></span>G4S has repeatedly refused to invest in new capacity in its centres in Wakefield and Birmingham, simply saying at meetings that they are looking for sites and buildings. The National Audit Office <a href="http://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/10287-001-accommodation-for-asylum-seekers-Book.pdf">Report of January 2014</a> reminded G4S of its obligations:</p> <p>“Under the contract providers are required to maintain a flexible portfolio of properties to meet changing demand.”</p> <p>Instead G4S has waited for numbers to rise and then tried to find the cheapest and most available private rented properties, regardless of longstanding Home Office agreements with local authorities on numbers and housing standards. The company’s policy of packing in single men into cheap slum housing in Rotherham drew public rebukes from Rotherham Council and <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-humber-25741778">the National Audit Office</a> in 2013. The NAO Report said of Rotherham:</p> <p>“The town currently has the highest number of asylum seekers in the region, including higher numbers than in Leeds, the biggest city in the area. The Department has asked G4S to reduce the numbers accommodated in Rotherham to a more sustainable level.” </p> <p>From June 2014 G4S had to stop allocations in Rotherham for four months. </p> <p>There are now not enough places for the asylum seekers coming through.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h3><strong>Meltdown</strong></h3> <p>The Home Office and Clearel, its contractor in London and the South East, have been placing newly arrived asylum seekers in budget hotels in Croydon and Folkestone. Rayah Feldman of the Hackney Migrant Centre reports that in London:</p> <p>“The system seems to be in meltdown. All the people have now been moved from the hotel which got the publicity but we don't know where to.”</p> <p>Croydon Council’s housing enforcement officers found <a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/600-asylum-seekers-crammed-98-bed-4277325">600 asylum seekers packed into a 98 bed hotel</a> in Crystal Palace, some people sleeping nine to a room. 130 of the group were than sent to <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-29514675">a hotel in Folkestone</a>, 155 to <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-29407794">two hotels in Bournemouth</a></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/backyard2.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/backyard2.JPG" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>G4S back yard, Sheffield</span></span></span>The mess that the Home Office and their commercial contractors have made serves to fuel the anti-asylum seeker rhetoric. </p> <p>In the North West of England Serco’s initial accommodation centre in Liverpool was already overwhelmed in December 2013 when 100 asylum seekers and their families were sent for nine weeks to <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/10499829/Asylum-seekers-put-up-in-luxury-hotel-at-cost-of-400000.html">a hotel in Manchester</a> at a cost of £400,000, according to the <em>Daily</em> <em>Telegraph</em>.&nbsp; </p> <p><a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/explaining-and-learning-from-the-ukip-surge-in-south-yorkshire/">One week before the European and local elections in Barnsley</a> on 16 May 2014 the local weekly <em>Barnsley Chronicle </em>decided to run what was a quite an old story with banner headlines “Asylum seekers put up in plush hotels”. Next day the&nbsp;<em>Daily Mail </em>and the<em> Daily Express </em>picked up the story.<em> </em></p> <p>“While millions of Britons are living on and below the bread line, asylum seekers are living a life of four-star luxury courtesy of the taxpayer,” a UKIP spokesman told the <em>Express,</em> whose editorial claimed that a “surge in arrivals” of asylum seekers had caused the resort to hotels. The <em>Express</em> asserted, predictably, that “More must be done to prevent asylum seekers getting into the country including more stringent border controls.”</p> <p>Placing asylum seekers and their children in hotels and constantly moving them means real difficulties in accessing GP’s and voluntary health checks. One former senior local council asylum worker told me: “There is no way that the Home Office is safeguarding children, in these hotels”. </p> <p>An NHS specialist nurse said: “We don’t think we have missed anyone for their health check in the hotels…but who knows?” Claims for asylum are being slowed because of difficulties in contacting interpreters and solicitors. Maurice Wren of the Refugee Council has protested that asylum seekers are “being shuttled around and pushed from pillar to post” after fleeing horrifying experiences in their homelands and that the focus <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-29407794">should be on the plight of the refugees</a>.</p> <h3><strong>A dangerous brew</strong></h3> <p>Last time the numbers of asylum seekers rose, the then Labour government’s panic dispersal policies led to racist attacks on asylum seekers. An official Home Office report of 2005 covering 77 local authorities stated bluntly:</p> <p>“The government’s policy of dispersing asylum seekers is creating long term ‘ghettos’ in deprived areas where they are <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2007/mar/16/asylum.immigrationasylumandrefugees">more likely to suffer racial assaults and harassment</a>…The procurement of housing in the poorest areas polarises entrenched views held by the host community against the incomers.” </p> <p><a href="http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409441526">Tom Vickers</a> of Northumbria University quotes a national survey in 2005 in which 83 per cent of female asylum seekers and refugees who participated said that they did not go out at night because they feared abuse and harassment.</p> <p>In towns such as Middlesbrough and Rotherham where G4S has concentrated its largest numbers of asylum seekers, councillors have expressed concerns that G4S is placing asylum seekers in areas where the Far Right is strong. Middlesbrough Councillors have complained off the record to researchers that G4S is simply not telling them where asylum seekers are being placed. Rotherham is a particularly volatile area to house asylum seekers, with regular EDL demonstrations, a major UKIP stronghold now and with constant high profile racialised issues around child sexual abuse; and also anti-Gypsyism aimed at local Roma communities.</p> <h3><strong>Stirring the pot</strong></h3> <p>Sheffield MP, and former Home Secretary, David Blunkett has made matters worse. Writing under <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2810308/DAVID-BLUNKETT-Yes-specific-parts-Britain-swamped-migrants-politicians-dare-tell-truth.html">the Daily Mail’s “Right Minds” banner</a>, Blunkett supported Tory minister Michael Fallon in his assertion that immigrants are ‘swamping’ communities. Blunkett wrote:</p> <p>“This storm [over Fallon’s outburst] echoed the experience I went through 12 years ago when I, too, used the word ‘swamped’ to describe the anxious feelings of people who were facing the dispersal of large numbers of asylum seekers into their own hard-pressed Northern communities.”</p> <p>Blunkett should know better. In Rotherham hate crimes have sharply <a href="http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/local/hate-crime-on-the-rise-in-wake-of-child-sex-abuse-scandal-in-rotherham-1-6874773">increased over the summer</a>. In Barnsley hate crimes, the majority of them racist, are up by 100 per cent; there have been around 150 reported in the first eight months of the year. A large former mining area bordering Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster — the Dearne Valley — has been declared a no go area for asylum housing by the local councils and the Home Office for many years. The area was a stronghold of the BNP (British National Party) during the period from 2005 -2011 when the far right party was standing candidates in all Barnsley local government wards. </p> <h3><strong>Democratic accountability?</strong></h3> <p>In the early summer there was an unprecedented protest about G4S from local councils in Yorkshire citing,&nbsp;<span>“a number of difficulties in the management of the COMPASS contract”, and “tensions between the main contractor, some of the sub-contractors, and local partners”.</span></p> <p>All ten local Council leaders in Yorkshire where G4S had housing signed a letter to the Minister of State for Immigration asking him for a meeting to discuss these issues. The Minister agreed to meet representatives of the local authorities.</p> <p><span>Regardless of local councils’ wishes, wherever you look in the G4S asylum housing scene you find the now </span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/how-to-use-housing-to-hurt-people-britains-hostile-environment-for-asylum-se">familiar pattern</a><span> of overcrowded, often slum property with little privacy or respect offered to tenants. In Coventry asylum tenants and refugees have formed CARAG (Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group) to challenge G4S and its degrading housing. On the 30th of July&nbsp;tenants and supporters held a meeting with a representative of G4s; </span><a href="http://caragcoventry,weebly.com/">the Carag website reports:</a></p> <p>“People&nbsp;discussed problems involving repairs taking forever, inaccessible housing for people with medical conditions. Male staff intruding upon female service users. Also the complaints procedure was found to be insufficient and not fit for purpose…[the Birmingham accommodation centre] which is a hostel meant to be&nbsp; initial accommodation in the short term for 21 days had people being left for more than four months.”</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/bathshower.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/bathshower.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bath/shower in a G4S house in Sheffield (Grayson)</span></span></span></p><h3>An open prison for migrants?</h3><p>Asylum housing is seen by many tenants as a form of house arrest – a ‘soft detention’ after often brutal experience of detention centres. Antony Loewenstein, an Australian journalist researching immigration detention in the UK was taken in August to G4S asylum HMO’s (Houses in Multiple Occupation) in Sheffield where tenants were recovering from traumatic experiences in detention centres. He wrote about his visit:&nbsp;</p><p><span>“When detainees are released, they still often face indefinite insecurity. In Sheffield, I visited G4S housing in one of the poorest areas of the city. On a windy summer day, with Roma children playing in the streets, I saw squalid houses with up to nine men packed into small rooms. I heard stories about the Home Office taking years to reach a decision on immigration claims, which precludes many migrants from building a decent life, given their lack of work rights.”</span></p><p><span>&nbsp;</span>Sheffield campaigners know these asylum housing conditions only too well —&nbsp;tiny attic rooms, uncleared rubbish inside and outside, mice infestations and filthy showers. All in breach of G4S’s contract obligations and some in clear breach of housing law.</p> <p>These are the degrading housing conditions offered by the UK to deter new asylum seekers. To create a ‘hostile environment’ so that refugees will simply <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/the-shameful-go-home-campaign/">‘Go Home’</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p class="paddingtonpresslist"><strong><em>Liked this piece? Please donate to OurKingdom </em></strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><strong><em>here </em></strong></a><strong><em>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</em></strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/britain-has-become-open-prison-to-migrants">Britain has become an open prison to migrants</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/five-lessons-britain-must-learn-from-botched-privatisation-of-asylum-housin">Five lessons Britain must learn from the botched privatisation of asylum housing</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/how-to-use-housing-to-hurt-people-britains-hostile-environment-for-asylum-s">How to use housing to hurt people: Britain&#039;s hostile environment for asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/uk-watchdog-takes-another-bite-out-of-failing-outsourcer-g4s">UK watchdog takes another bite out of failing outsourcer G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/living-with-rats-landlord-g4s">Living with rats. Landlord G4S</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light 50.50 People on the Move John Grayson Wed, 19 Nov 2014 00:12:28 +0000 John Grayson 87888 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Barnsley Freedom Riders: pensioner people power https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/barnsley-freedom-riders-pensioner-people-power <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In South Yorkshire rail passengers resist the removal of free travel for retired and disabled people.</p> </div> </div> </div> <ul><li><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/BarnsleyStation.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/BarnsleyStation.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Freedom Riders, Barnsley Station, April 2014 (Sadie Robinson)</span></span></span><br /></em></li><li><em>We shall not, we shall not be stopped.</em></li><li><em>We shall not, we shall not be stopped</em></li><li><em>We are protestors riding on the Freedom Train,</em></li><li><em>We shall not be stopped!</em></li><li><em>&nbsp;</em></li><li><em>We will ride that train,</em></li><li><em>We will ride that train,</em></li><li><em>We will ride that train, for free</em></li><li><em>Oh deep in our hearts we do believe</em></li><li><em>We will ride that train, today.</em></li></ul> <p><span>One hundred and fifty Barnsley citizens gather in one of the small entrances to Barnsley’s Interchange railway station one sunny Monday morning. There are women and men, veterans of strikes and political campaigns over the years, men wearing their war medals, disabled campaigners, some in wheelchairs. They are singing and chanting “We want to get on to the train”, their song sheets are full of campaign versions of standards like “We shall not be moved” and “We shall overcome”.</span></p> <p><span>This is the 29 April, and the fifth Monday Freedom Ride of pensioners and disabled people protesting at the decision of the South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority (SYITA) to end free rail travel concessions. Barnsley people have had travel concessions on rail and bus services throughout South and West Yorkshire since the 1985 Transport Act. Labour introduced a national scheme for bus passes in 2000. The cuts threaten to reduce rights down to the national scheme which is also at risk after the 2015 election.</span></p> <p>Barnsley's retired and disabled people have been able to travel during the day to Sheffield or Leeds for shopping, leisure and work. Family contacts and caring responsibilities have been retained by trips to the towns and villages along the lines – Elsecar, Wombwell, and Chapeltown one way: Penistone and Huddersfield another: and to Royston, Wakefield and Leeds. &nbsp;</p> <p><span>Rail trips to the Meadowhall shopping centre between Barnsley and Sheffield were especially popular among retired Barnsley women, and often essential. One elderly Barnsley woman told campaigners that she travelled most days in winter to spend time in the heated Meadowhall centre to save money on heating so that she could spend a little more on food. Meadowhall has become the meeting point for the Freedom Riders over the past weeks. The travel concessions cost the four South Yorkshire authorities £234,000 in a budget of £78.6 million. Researchers told the Freedom Riders that for every £1 spent on concessionary travel £1.50 was generated in the local economy in consumer and leisure spending.</span></p> <p><span>The twelve councillors (all men) on the Authority decided to axe the scheme at their meeting in their Regent Street premises in Barnsley on 6 March. This was despite the fact that at the meeting Alan Thorpe, representing the county’s visually impaired public transport service users, said that the proposed service cuts to free travel before 9.30 would affect the dignity of the visually impaired and cause embarrassment, creating issues with having to take tickets and dealing with loose change. He pointed out that most stations were unstaffed, making the purchase of tickets for pre 9.30 travel very difficult. It was noted that the Mayor of Doncaster did not support the proposed subsidy cuts which unfairly targeted the young, elderly and disabled.</span></p> <p><span>Back on 1 March, when there was a rumour that free rail travel was to be ended, a meeting was called at Barnsley’s Central Library – three hundred people turned up and an overspill room had to be found. On 6 March a hundred and fifty people turned out to lobby the South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority meeting in Barnsley but thanks to the seven votes of Barnsley and Sheffield councillors a majority carried the decision to end free travel.</span></p> <p><span>Outside the Barnsley Interchange, Fran Postlethwaite, a retired English teacher and former National Union of Teachers secretary, leads the Meadowhall shoppers, carers, volunteers and disabled workers in chanting the names of the two Barnsley councillors who voted for the cuts</span></p> <p><em>“Leech and Miller hear us say: Free train travel here to stay”</em></p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/leech.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/leech.JPG" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Banner, Barnsley Democracy Day</span></span></span>Tosh McDonald, the national vice president of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, congratulates the Freedom Riders for fighting for rights which will preserve rail services. In the crowd is the ninety one year old former ASLEF train driver Bill Ronksley, until recently secretary of the Sheffield Trades Council.</span></p><p><span>A speaker from the Yorkshire Region of the National Pensioners Convention brings greetings and unanimous support from their AGM in Bradford. The (young) UNITE Community union organiser speaks and gives solidarity and support. A message is read from former Home Secretary and Sheffield MP David Blunkett:</span></p> <p><span>"I am deeply concerned. I am sure there is a way forward that would provide a compromise and I will continue to pursue this both with my fellow MPs and with the council."</span></p> <p><span>Blunkett, who is blind and has a guide dog, led Sheffield’s Labour council when cheap fares dominated local politics in the 1980’s. Before then, he had worked as a college lecturer in Barnsley.</span></p> <p><span>The entrance to the station platform is blocked by a wedge of British Transport (BT) police and rather embarrassed looking Network Rail personnel. Freedom Riders at the front loudly protest at being shoved around. George Arthur, a retired primary school teacher and union activist, on the megaphone, challenges the police and asks why they are getting so aggressive and violent with a peaceful demonstration. George, one of the organisers of the Freedom Ride, had earlier read out declarations from the UN and Council of Europe on the rights of free assembly.</span></p> <p>The Barnsley Freedom Riders had planned to board a train to the Meadowhall shopping centre for the now regular Monday rally with Sheffield Freedom Riders. The police hold their ground and the train comes and goes. Dave Gibson, retired college lecturer and chair of the Barnsley Trades Council, calls for a vote and a decision is taken to stay and demand to get on the next train. News comes through that the Sheffield Freedom Riders had gathered at Meadowhall and twenty five protestors are coming to join Barnsley. A second train comes and the police stand firm.</p> <p><span>We all begin to realise that the Sheffield supporters will arrive on the opposite platform. The BT police had not been told to block the other platform entrance so we all headed over the station bridge and simply walked on and waited for the train, the police and rail officials looking on from the other side of the tracks. The Sheffield train arrives and the Barnsley Freedom Riders board, with their placards and chants, to join the Sheffield group on the train. We cheer and applaud them. The freedom ride is a bit shorter than usual – just up the line to Penistone, but we are all on the train and refusing to pay.</span></p> <p><span>As the train leaves two very respectable looking Barnsley women shout to the police across the tracks using a chanted insult from the Miners Strike in softened Barnsley accents “Who are you? Who are you?” (They omit the response — about coppers and bastards). A young regular Barnsley policeman stood nearby, familiar with the chant, replies – "I am a mother’s son." One of the women says gently to him.</span></p> <p>“Yes and my son’s disabled that’s why I am here – he won’t be able to get free travel to his work – that’s why we’re all here.”</p> <p><strong>A year of people power in Barnsley</strong></p> <p><span>Last Saturday (3 May) was Stand Up for Democracy Day in Barnsley town centre, with stalls and activists from the Freedom Rides and other recent campaigns. This past year has been a year of people power in Barnsley and the former mining villages around the town. Barnsley has developed one of the strongest and liveliest local campaigns against the Bedroom Tax with groups forming in the town and the nearby villages and estates of Hoyland, Athersley, Worsborough, Cudworth and Royston. The campaign held regular demonstrations outside the town hall and the local magistrates’ court and has forced the local council to use funds to pay off the arrears of many of the 3000 tenants affected.</span></p><p><span></span><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Barnsley.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/Barnsley.JPG" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Standing up for democracy, Barnsley (John Grayson)</span></span></span>Users of Barnsley Central Library - retired teachers and lawyers, students, disabled people, researchers, mothers and children from reading groups, asylum seekers and refugees —&nbsp;were faced with a council decision to demolish the Library in late 2013, and a campaign began. The Library had been refurbished by the Council at the cost of £2m only a few years ago. The campaign regularly attracted more than 50 campaigners to its organising meetings, and lobbies of the council, and presented the largest petition ever received by councillors with 13,000 signatures.</span></p> <p>The local Barnsley Trades Council has been rejuvenated with active support for local strikes and walkouts by civil service staffs, fire-fighters, teachers, bus drivers, ambulance crews, and care workers. The UNITE union’s Community branch has opened a support and welfare advice centre in the Miners Union offices – a useful counterpoint to the two food banks nearby in the town centre.</p> <p>There are more Freedom Rides planned – pensioner people power still rules and may well restore the right to free travel and some dignity for South Yorkshire people.</p> <p>As this piece goes online, local newspaper&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/breaking-new-travel-cuts-deal-on-table-after-south-yorkshire-campaign-1-6607136">The Star</a>&nbsp;is reporting that<span>&nbsp;Councillor Sir Steve Houghton, leader of Barnsley Council, says plans to reinstate all free travel for disabled people and offer half price train travel to pensioners from 9.30am would be put to a</span><span>&nbsp;transport chiefs’ meeting on May 19</span><span>.&nbsp;</span>Houghton<span>&nbsp;added: “I do want to stress this is not a result of people who have been breaking the law.”</span></p><p>All right, Steve.</p><hr /><p><span>Thanks to George Arthur and the Freedom Riders for material for this article. Thanks to Sadie Robinson for her picture, first published </span><a href="http://socialistworker.co.uk/art/38026/All+aboard+as+the+freedom+riders+demand+free+travel">here</a><span>&nbsp;on Socialist Worker</span><span>.</span></p><p class="paddingtonpresslist"><strong><em>Liked this piece? Please donate to OurKingdom </em></strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><strong><em>here </em></strong></a><strong><em>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</em></strong></p> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Shine A Light John Grayson Fri, 09 May 2014 17:45:39 +0000 John Grayson 82688 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Five lessons Britain must learn from the botched privatisation of asylum housing https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/five-lessons-britain-must-learn-from-botched-privatisation-of-asylum-housin <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A Parliamentary watchdog reports on the dangerous consequences of an ill-conceived, badly planned and poorly executed rush to privatise</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/stephensmallPACFEB2014.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/stephensmallPACFEB2014.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stephen Small, recruited from Rentokil, G4S executive in charge of asylum housing, gives evidence Feb 2014</span></span></span></p><p>Today the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) released their Report on the appalling privatisation of housing for people awaiting outcomes of asylum claims or appeals.</p> <p>Committee chair Margaret Hodge's comments on the fiasco are worth quoting in full:</p> <p>“The Home Office decided to replace 22 separate contracts to provide accommodation for destitute asylum seekers with six regional contracts in order to save £140 million over 7 years," she said. "The change was poorly planned and badly managed and is unlikely to yield the savings intended.</p> <p>“Three contractors secured the new big contracts. Two, G4S and Serco, had no previous experience of accommodating asylum seekers. Instead of brokering a smooth transition between outgoing and incoming contractors and with local authorities, the Home Office short-sightedly decided to take a hands-off approach and only allowed three months to get the new contracts up and running."</p><p>And that's not all.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/hodgePACFEB2014.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/hodgePACFEB2014.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee</span></span></span></p> <p>Hodge went on: “G4S and Serco failed to inspect and check the properties before taking them over. This lack of information contributed to delays, extra cost, and disruption and confusion for a very vulnerable group of service users.</p> <p>“The Home Office’s decision to rely on fewer and larger contractors was risky and lies at odds with the Government’s stated commitment to encourage SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] to deliver public services. The knowledge of experienced specialist providers has been lost and there are fewer alternative options available to the Department if the contractor fails.</p> <p>“The standard of the accommodation provided has often been unacceptably poor for a very fragile group of individuals and families. The companies failed to improve quality in a timely manner. None of this was helped by the Department’s failure to impose penalties on contractors in the transition period. It is disturbing that over a year into the contract the accommodation is still not of the required standard and the Department has only chalked up £8 million in savings.</p><p><span>“Progress was also hampered by the failure of the Home Office and its contractors to establish a proper working partnership and to share necessary information, such as forecasts of demand for asylum accommodation."</span></p><p>Less feistily, Hodge concluded: "The Home Office must insist adequate plans are in place for how it will manage the introduction of any new contracts in the future, including an understanding of what will be inherited from previous contractors, and clear arrangements for exiting previous arrangements.” </p><p>So, business goes on.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/cockroach small_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/cockroach small_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cockroach traps, asylum-seeker flat, Leeds 2013 (Grayson)</span></span></span></p> <p>This is the third major parliamentary investigation and report on the shambolic job the major contractors G4S and Serco have made of the housing of 23,000 asylum seekers throughout the UK. The Asylum housing contract is potentially worth £1.8 billion over seven years and is the largest single contract ever allocated by the Home Office. (The contract goes by the acronym COMPASS: Commercial and Operating Managers Procuring Asylum Support). </p> <p>MPs, ministers and chairs of select committees have described conditions in G4S asylum housing as ‘appalling’, have exposed harassment of tenants, and gross invasions of privacy. This final report from the PAC goes over similar ground.&nbsp;</p> <p>The PAC has at last made sure that G4S and Serco have been fined for their breaches of the contract and failure to deliver, but the two international security firms with absolutely no experience of social housing are nonetheless being allowed to continue the housing abuse of vulnerable asylum seekers and their families – potentially until 2019.</p> <p>Here are five lessons we should learn from this sorry tale:</p> <p><strong>1. Don’t entrust the housing of the vulnerable to people who understand nothing about them</strong></p> <p>International security companies like G4S and Serco have been given contracts in the “asylum market” before – in detention centres, as escort guards deporting people. Former G4S guards are <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-London-26665039">at present facing trial for the manslaughter of Jimmy Mubenga</a>.&nbsp;Serco manages the notorious Yarl’s Wood detention and removal centre for women. The Home Office recently refused to allow the UN to visit the centre and Yvette Cooper shadow Home Office minister has called for an <a href="http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2014/03/31/labour-demands-urgent-investigation-into-yarls-wood-detentio">investigation into Yarl’s Wood.</a></p> <p>This is the record of companies who were seen as suitable to take over the successful and sensitive provision of asylum housing for often traumatised asylum seekers from local councils. As Margaret Hodge chair of the PAC said in the committee hearings there was no reason to privatise the service:</p> <p>“I don’t believe it is right to say the previous service was poor. I think they…were delivering a far better service than we’ve had so far.”</p> <p><strong>2. Don’t hand public contracts and millions in public money to companies who continually fail to deliver</strong></p> <p>And in the case of Serco and G4S illegally <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/ellie-butt/when-companies-charge-taxpayer-for-monitoring-dead">defraud the taxpayer</a>. G4S spectacularly failed to deliver its security contract for the 2012 Olympic Games and this year is being rewarded with the security contract for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. </p> <p><strong>3. Do make public contractors like G4S and Serco immediately accountable to regular public and parliamentary scrutiny</strong></p> <p>Companies running contracts financed entirely from taxpayers' money should be subject to FOI (Freedom of Information) legislation. Their management and delivery of contracts should be transparent and they should not be allowed to hide behind secrecy walls of commercial confidentiality.</p> <p>The only reason G4S and Serco have been exposed as slum landlords abusing asylum seekers and forced to appear before parliamentary committees is because asylum tenants have been willing to speak out and campaigners and activists have publicised the &nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/corruption-delusion-britains-botched-privatisation-of-asylum-housing">incompetence, corruption and delusion</a> of the privatised contractors.</p> <p><strong>4. Parliament should give asylum housing tenants the same tenancy rights as other people in social housing</strong></p> <p>The Immigration and Asylum Act of 2000 stripped asylum seekers of any tenants’ rights, and gave landlords a duty to spy on them in their homes. In practice when local authorities ran the system they defied the government and many asylum housing tenants were given tenancy “licenses” which gave them some protection but also recognised that the tenancy was only temporary. Asylum tenants were given access to the existing statutory right to be consulted by some local authority landlords again against Home Office advice. </p> <p>In evidence to the Public Accounts Committee it emerged that under the present contract G4S is tearing up agreements with local authorities on numbers and overcrowding. </p><p>In Liverpool, according to the <a href="http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/sunday-echo-investigation-asylum-seekers-6838538">Sunday Echo on 16 March</a>, Serco simply does not consult with the local authority and has been prosecuted and fined for conditions in asylum housing property.</p> <p>The contract also requires (and the PAC Report repeats this) that the contractors Serco and G4S have to ensure that all properties should meet the Government’s legal “Decency standard” for social housing. This requirement has been ignored and G4S and Serco continue to provide appalling slum housing.</p> <p><strong>5. Don't hand contracts to people who lack basic human decency</strong></p><p>The sordid saga of asylum housing managed by G4S and Serco has exposed the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/how-to-use-housing-to-hurt-people-britains-hostile-environment-for-asylum-se">everyday abuse and disrespect</a> for those who exercise their rights to seek asylum and safety in the UK by the Home Office and their contractors.</p> <p>What should be care and support for asylum seekers has become a monstrous system of abuse and deterrence. Asylum seekers and activists working in solidarity with them are slowly but surely shining a light on the darkest parts of the 'asylum market' where the state has outsourced violence and abuse, where people have become commodities — every prisoner a profit centre, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/donna-red-wing/every-prisoner-profit-centre-every-immigrant-business-opportunity">every immigrant a business opportunity</a></p> <p>This debacle with asylum housing was absolutely predictable. As one asylum tenant said when he heard that G4S had got the housing contract: “I do not want a prison guard as my landlord”. G4S is now facing growing campaigns challenging its appalling human rights record in many countries. Campaigners have recently set out the case against G4S in a comprehensive <a href="http://stopg4s.net/Apr14briefing">briefing for trades unions</a> commissioned by UNITE, Britain’s largest union. Members of the Public Accounts Committee should read it, revisit their report and cancel the G4S and Serco asylum housing contracts.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em><span>Liked this piece? Please donate to OurKingdom </span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><span>here </span></a><span>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</span></em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/how-to-use-housing-to-hurt-people-britains-hostile-environment-for-asylum-s">How to use housing to hurt people: Britain&#039;s hostile environment for asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/uk-watchdog-takes-another-bite-out-of-failing-outsourcer-g4s">UK watchdog takes another bite out of failing outsourcer G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/britains-botched-privatisation-of-asylum-housing">Britain&#039;s botched privatisation of asylum housing</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/living-with-rats-landlord-g4s">Living with rats. Landlord G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-owes-thousands-of-pounds-on-energy-bills">G4S owes thousands of pounds on energy bills</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/after-mubenga-unlawful-killing-verdict-could-asylum-seekers-have-worse-land">After Mubenga unlawful killing verdict: Could asylum seekers have a worse landlord than G4S?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-asylum-housing-evictions-begin-mother-and-baby-dumped-in-substandard-fl">G4S asylum housing, the evictions begin: mother and baby dumped in substandard flat</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/their-secret-is-out-but-for-g4s-and-friends-abject-disregard-for-human-dign">Their secret is out, but for G4S and friends ‘abject disregard&#039; for human dignity persists</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Prisons & child prisoners Shine A Light John Grayson Thu, 24 Apr 2014 18:09:32 +0000 John Grayson 82105 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to use housing to hurt people: Britain's hostile environment for asylum seekers https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/how-to-use-housing-to-hurt-people-britains-hostile-environment-for-asylum-s <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The hidden injuries of asylum housing — inflicted by G4S.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/DR-6.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/DR-6.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>7 adults and 3 children lived in this house in the North East of England (John Grayson)</span></span></span></p><p><span>Luke is a young African asylum seeker. We met over a coffee in a drop in centre in the North East of England. We talked about his everyday life as a new asylum seeker. He was bored and frustrated waiting for interviews and decisions on his asylum claim. He told me: “I do not know why they want to humiliate us — we are simply trying to get a place of safety”.</span></p> <p><span>Luke told me how he had ended up in dirty overcrowded asylum accommodation. He had spent more than a month in the government's&nbsp; ‘Initial Accommodation Centre’ called Angel Lodge — it stands in the grounds of Wakefield high security prison, and it's run by the security company G4S.</span></p> <p><span>He kept a food diary, using his mobile phone to photograph his main meals each day.</span></p><p><span>The meals include s</span><span>tewed meat with tinned mixed vegetables (carrots, peas, beans and potatoes).&nbsp;</span><span>A greasy stew with frozen chips and a squirt of Luke’s ketchup.&nbsp;</span><span>Overcooked plain pasta with a dubious mince meat and vegetable sauce, again with an essential ketchup dressing . . .&nbsp;</span><span>drab, poorly cooked food, only rarely with fresh vegetables.</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/***graysondinners.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/***graysondinners.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="202" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></span></p><p>Families with young children are among the 200 people who live at Angel Lodge. When Luke was there, he said, there was no fresh milk for two days – children had powdered milk.</p> <p>Over the past few months I've interviewed six other residents . . . They tell a similar story:&nbsp; ‘awful’ food, dirty dining room, and rude, racist staff contemptuous of complaints. </p> <p>Visiting nurses used hand gestures to communicate with anxious mothers about their health and that of their children, Luke said he saw no interpreters. He said he had not been offered any health and safety briefings on life in the centre. </p> <p><span>Luke felt warehoused in shared rooms in the&nbsp;</span><span>overcrowded hostel.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/WP_000158_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/WP_000158_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><span>There were two washing machines working — for more than&nbsp; 200 people. Luke said he had to wait days to wash his clothes. There was no personal mail service: one of Luke’s letters remained in the centre office for a week before he was told to collect it.</span></p><p><span>There were three showers,&nbsp;</span><span>dirty and uncleaned,&nbsp;</span><span>for forty people.</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/WP_000109_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/WP_000109_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></span></p><p><span><strong>Uprooted and dumped like “luggage” on Christmas Eve</strong></span></p> <p><span>I talked to Jane (not her real name), an African lone mother asylum seeker as she showed me round cramped accommodation she shared with her two children in the back streets of a town in the North East of England. Jane had found herself homeless in West Yorkshire waiting for interviews for her asylum claim. Friends who were giving her a home had to leave their property and Jane had to seek asylum ‘support’.&nbsp; Jane had managed to get nearby nursery school places for her two daughters and a promised school place for her four year old.</span></p> <p><span>The family were moved to Angel Lodge and spent two miserable weeks in the overcrowded centre. Jane refused to allow her toddlers to use the play area which she describes as “smelly and dirty”. The food was “unhealthy and inadequate”. For short periods overcrowding meant that she was moved to a hotel in Wakefield and given vouchers for expensive meals - £25 a day for each of them which Jane regarded as lavish and ridiculous.</span></p> <p><span>Jane found staff at Angel Lodge poorly trained and rude. They entered her room whenever they liked but provided no cleaning equipment so that she could keep her living space clean for her toddlers.</span></p> <p><span>Despite the fact that G4S houses more than 1000 asylum seekers in West Yorkshire Jane was sent 90 miles away from her friends and networks to Teesside on Christmas Eve (yes Christmas Eve). On arrival Jane was told to sign an agreement for a house she had not seen. Jane was then dumped with her children in a G4S/Jomast house with two other asylum seeker families.</span></p> <p><span>When I visited Jane in her accommodation she was clearly distressed — not about the terraced house which was clean and well maintained, but the overcrowding. The house has five rooms, three of which has a family in each room. The only bathroom and toilet for Jane and her two small daughters which they shared with four other people were down a steep flight of stairs and through the communal area and through the kitchen. The toilet facilities led directly off the kitchen (against the local council’s own licensing regulations). </span></p><p><span>Jane had one small cupboard for all her and her two childrens’ things. </span><span>Jane has no private food cupboards, she has to share a fridge freezer. Jane had to face all this after being dumped in a strange town in Christmas week in a house with families from very different countries, and no chance of finding school places for her children for months.</span></p> <p><span><strong>The doctor’s child next to the gas cooker</strong></span></p> <p><span>I met a very cheerful Sarah (not her real name) in an advice centre – she had just received the news that she and her toddler son had been given ‘right to remain’. Sarah is a doctor who herself worked with refugees in her home country in Africa. Sarah and her child were transported to the North East and dumped on the top floor of a seedy HMO (House in multiple occupation). The Home Office call this “dispersal”. She was adamant that I should tell her story and the shabby and degrading treatment of herself and her child.</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/DR-5.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/DR-5.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A window at the doctor's house (John Grayson)</span></span></span></span></p><p><span>Sarah had shared a crowded room with her son; there there was a bed for the toddler — next to the gas cooker</span><span>. Sarah was appalled and demanded a move and better treatment for her child, for instance safety gates on the steep stairs in the property. Jomast, the G4S landlord, refused saying the council would not allow gates because they were a safety risk for fire evacuation.</span></p> <p><span>There were seven adults and three children in the six room house. There were broken windows</span><span>&nbsp;and a small rubbish strewn yard with an old bed dumped in it (top picture).</span><span>&nbsp;When Sarah demanded some acceptable play space for her son she was told that “Jomast are not responsible for play areas”. Jomast officers refused to move Sarah, but Sarah has moved anyway — to start a life as a refugee doctor in the Midlands.</span></p><p><span><strong>Asylum housing and humiliation</strong></span></p> <p><span>Asylum seekers have been forced into </span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/lorna-gledhill/bad-management-and-broken-promises-asylum-housing-gets-g4s-olympic-experie"><strong>Angel Lodge</strong></a><span> before, it had been used from 2007 to 2011, and was closed down in March 2011 amid controversy regarding </span><a href="http://www.wakefieldexpress.co.uk/news/local/more-wakefield-news/death-risk-asylum-lodge-owners-fined-1-3545837">multiple fire safety failings</a><span> and shocking living standards. </span><a href="http://www.wakefieldexpress.co.uk/news/local/more-wakefield-news/death-risk-asylum-lodge-owners-fined-1-3545837">Wakefield Magistrates' Court was told that the only way to raise the alarm at Angel Lodge was to shout 'fire',</a><span> even though most residents could not speak English.</span></p> <p><span>Since last autumn the centre has been overcrowded because G4S failed to plan for the 25 per cent increase in demand for asylum housing in 2013. Civil servants from the National Audit Office in their </span><a href="http://www.nao.org.uk/report/compass-contracts-provision-accommodation-asylum-seekers/">report</a><span> to the Public Affairs Committee in January 2014 disclosed that G4S and its subcontractor Urban Housing Services (part of the Citrus Group) had defied Wakefield council and Planning law by exceeding the numbers agreed by the Planning authority in Angel Lodge. The Report disclosed that “G4S has continued to house more than 200 people in the initial accommodation” (NAO Report p20).</span></p> <p><span>Reports from visitors to Angel Lodge in early March suggest overcrowding is still a major issue – and is likely to get worse as asylum seeker and asylum housing </span><a href="http://www.unhcr.org/5392b15a9.html?_ga=1.114177415.1072973626.1395670472"><strong>numbers continue to rise</strong></a><span> in the UK for the first time since 2000.</span></p> <p><strong>Overcrowding agreements torn up</strong></p><p><strong></strong><span>There have been government agreements with local authorities since 2003, to manage numbers of asylum seekers – G4S has ignored these. A protest from the leader of Rotherham council in South Yorkshire followed G4S moving a larger concentration of people into asylum housing there than in</span><span> the </span><a href="http://www.nao.org.uk/report/compass-contracts-provision-accommodation-asylum-seekers/">whole of the Leeds city area</a><span>. </span><span>Middlesbrough in the North East has also exceeded agreed limits. Both Rotherham and Middlesbrough have one thing in common – a supply of cheap and very poor quality private rented sector housing.</span></p> <p><span>In a voluntary sector project in one Yorkshire local authority over the last six months 90 per cent of new asylum seekers have been contacted and housing has always surfaced as a stressful issue. Eleven of the new asylum seekers have been Syrians officially promised a generous welcome by the government. The asylum housing reality is somewhat different. Here are some of the reports:</span></p> <p><span>A house with single asylum seekers was left with no heating for two weeks in the bitter weather of December 2013. Another asylum seeker was allocated a house with smashed furniture and broken crockery. A young Iranian had a room with no lighting for weeks. A couple were allocated accommodation with no storage space at all – no wardrobe no cupboards. A 24 hour ‘emergency’ repair for smoke alarms took three weeks.</span></p> <p><span>In Liverpool, where Serco operates the COMPASS contract, things seem to be even worse than in the G4S areas. Despite the fact that the city houses 1200 asylum seekers details of addresses are not given to the local authority for vetting or licensing.</span></p> <p><span>The&nbsp; ‘</span><a href="http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/sunday-echo-investigation-asylum-seekers-6838538"><strong>Sunday Echo’ on 16 March</strong></a><span> reported that Asylum seekers in Liverpool are “forced into dirty, cramped and dangerous housing” .The newspaper “has found evidence that some homes are well-below the standard demanded by the Home Office, and that some properties are regularly targeted by racist abuse."</span></p> <p><span>The revelations come after the council was forced to prosecute the firm&nbsp;for the “shocking” conditions of one house. It led to the company being fined more than £10,000 last October for packing seven tenants into the terraced house without a multiple occupancy license.</span></p> <p>Council inspectors discovered multiple fire hazards at the property, including doors restricted by kitchen appliances that would hinder refugees fleeing a blaze….</p> <p><span>Support services have said substandard, isolated accommodation is used by the Home Office to grind down refugees seeking safe-haven in the UK. Ewan Roberts, manager of Asylum Link Merseyside, a charity that supports&nbsp;asylum seekers, said: "the system can destroy hope.”</span></p> <p><strong>A dignified standard of living?</strong></p> <p class="c01pointnumerotealtn">This housing abuse has continued despite the fact that the UK is subject to the 2003 EU Directive 2003/9 which sets out "minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers that will normally suffice to ensure them a dignified standard of living." Article 18(1) of the directive states: </p> <p class="c02alineaalta">"The best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration for Member States when implementing the provisions of this Directive that involve minors." </p> <p class="c02alineaalta">Despite the risks, asylum housing tenants continue to speak out for themselves and their children, making their hidden injuries public, and continue to organise their networks for support and resistance. Serco in Scotland have had to recognise asylum tenants' groups and in Yorkshire and the North East in various centres tenants and asylum seekers have forced G4S to concede to them the right to feed back their views and criticisms of housing abuse. The fight for dignity, respect, and decent housing continues. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/uk-watchdog-takes-another-bite-out-of-failing-outsourcer-g4s">UK watchdog takes another bite out of failing outsourcer G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/living-with-rats-landlord-g4s">Living with rats. Landlord G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-asylum-housing-fiasco-descends-into-farce">G4S asylum-housing fiasco descends into farce</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Shine A Light John Grayson Mon, 07 Apr 2014 18:45:14 +0000 John Grayson 81160 at https://www.opendemocracy.net UK watchdog takes another bite out of failing outsourcer G4S https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/uk-watchdog-takes-another-bite-out-of-failing-outsourcer-g4s <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Commercial outsourcers fail and fail again. Privatisation hurtles on. The Public Accounts Committee has been interrogating executives and civil servants about the degradation of asylum housing in England.</p> </div> </div> </div> <script src="http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Embed/js.ashx?14843 460x322"></script> <p>Stephen Small spends a lot of his time trying to convince Members of Parliament that his employer is nothing like as bad as they think. He works for G4S, the gigantic security company that holds £2 billion worth of UK government contracts spanning public health, welfare, education, immigration and the justice sector.</p> <p>In November 2010, just days after G4S guards killed Jimmy Mubenga on a deportation flight by heavily restraining him, Small was summoned before the <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmhaff/563/10110201.htm">Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee.</a> Disputing whistleblowers' claims that G4S guards commonly used dangerous restraint techniques, Small claimed: </p><blockquote><p>“There is no training in pushing the head downwards. There is training in trying to keep the deportee upwards. There’s no neck holds or head holds used.”</p></blockquote> <p>Called back to the <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmhaff/uc71-iii/uc71.pdf">Home Affairs Committee in June 2013</a> Small, a former <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/another-g4s-scandal-uks-privatised-asylum-housing-market-is-falling-apart">Rentokil man</a>, tried to explain away why G4S had piled asylum seekers into slum properties riddled with <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/cockroach-in-baby%E2%80%99s-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s">cockroaches</a> and allowed subcontractors to harass and bully the tenants. </p> <p>Lately, on <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/WrittenEvidence.svc/EvidenceHtml/5823">Wednesday 5 February</a>, Small was summoned to Westminster again. The Public Accounts Committee, whose job is to see that taxpayers get value for money, wanted to interrogate him. They'd been considering a <a href="http://www.nao.org.uk/report/compass-contracts-provision-accommodation-asylum-seekers/">report</a> from the National Audit Office (NAO) on asylum housing and the contracts held by G4S and Serco.</p><p><strong>An attractive market</strong></p> <p>Campaigners and asylum seeker tenants in Yorkshire and the North East of England had provided the National Audit Office with a mountain of evidence of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/corruption-delusion-britains-botched-privatisation-of-asylum-housing">incompetence, corruption and delusion</a> since 2012 when the Home Office privatised asylum public housing. An&nbsp;attractive market: publicly funded social housing, compliant tenants with no legal tenancy rights, offered ‘no choice’ housing. It promised&nbsp;£1.8 billion of taxpayers’ money to outsourcing companies G4S, Serco and Reliance, their partners and subcontractors.</p><p>All three lead companies had a record of abuses in the brutal immigration detention and deportation ‘asylum markets’ and no experience of social housing management.</p> <p><a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/WrittenEvidence.svc/EvidencePdf/5823">Public Accounts Committee</a> chair, Labour's Margaret Hodge, was scathing about G4S and its lack of experience in social housing for vulnerable people. Stephen Small contradicted her, claiming G4S had relevant experience in the “welfare and care of people in all sorts of situations-from prisons to childrens’ homes to immigration removal centres”.</p><p><strong>Prison riots and death by restraint</strong></p> <p>G4S has run privatised UK children’s prisons, or secure training centres, since 1998. <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/6250406.stm">Fifteen-year-old Gareth Myatt died in April 2004 </a>&nbsp;under ‘restraint’ by G4S staff at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre near Rugby. In a High Court judgment on 11 January 2012, Mr Justice Foskett found it highly likely that large numbers of children were unlawfully restrained in secure training centres run by G4S (and Serco) between 1998 and 2008.</p> <p>G4S Children’s Services had eight small childrens homes in 2013. Last summer OurKingdom exposed the company's <a href="http://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/concealment-and-trickery-thats-g4s-childrens-homes">“concealment and trickery”</a> in applying for planning permissions for childrens’ homes under executives' personal identities, withholding the G4S name. The company's Children's Services Manager for Safety Health &amp; Environment in 2013 had been <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-fatally-restrains-15-year-old-gets-promoted">involved in the lethal restraint of Gareth Myatt in 2004</a>.</p> <p>Small drew to MPs' attention G4S's management of prisons, but he neglected to mention that inefficiency had in 2011 cost them the contract for <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/nov/08/g4s-loses-wolds-prison-contract">Wolds Prison</a>. Nor did he mention the recent violent disturbance at G4S-run Oakwood Prison, in Birmingham, which <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25846596">prison officers described as a "full scale riot"</a>. (The line agreed by G4S and the governent: <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25846596">"concerted indiscipline"</a>).</p> <p>Other corporate highlights that Small chose not mention: G4S involvement in Israeli prisons for Palestinian children, and their removal from management of South Africa's Mangaung prison amidst <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/southafrica/10409477/G4S-tortured-inmates-at-South-African-prison-as-they-were-understaffed.html">accusations of torture.</a></p> <p>Under questioning from Austin Mitchell MP, Permanent Secretary Mark Sedwill admitted that the housing contracts were “driven” by&nbsp;Home Office&nbsp;cuts in 2012.</p> <p>“That is the primary motive of any commercial arrangement. The aim was to save money while also maintaining a service that was adequate for the asylum seeker,” Sedwill said.</p> <p>He claimed that the previous contracts, mainly run by local authorities, would have been much more expensive — £826 million compared with the outsourcers' £687 million. He claimed (contrary to the evidence in the NAO Report) that £27 million had already been “saved” in the first eighteen months.</p><p><strong>Evidence suggests public provision was sound</strong></p> <p>Margaret Hodge said that relying on the private sector inevitably meant higher rents and lower standards for "this vulnerable group". Sedwill insisted that the outsourced asylum contract would in the end deliver better standards than the previous arrangements. Hodge disagreed, citing Joseph Rowntree Foundation <a href="http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/jrf-consultation-inquiry-asylum">research</a> that demonstrated the effectiveness of local authorities in managing asylum housing. She said:</p> <blockquote><p>“I don’t believe it is right to say the previous service was poor. I think they…were delivering a far better service than we’ve had so far.”</p></blockquote> <p>G4S and Small were confronted by questions from members quoting asylum tenants themselves. Ian Swales, the Liberal Democrat MP for Redcar, challenged G4S and its definition of ‘acceptable accommodation’. He spoke of one asylum seeker who stayed in the <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/g4s-jomast-stockton-hostel-and-the-mother-and-baby-market/">G4S/Jomast Stockton hostel</a> with her child and then, after getting her right to remain in the UK, went to a homeless hostel. </p> <p>She “could hardly believe how wonderful it was, it was like arriving in heaven,” Swales said.</p> <p>The MPs were clearly shocked by G4S and Serco's failure to inspect properties before allocation to asylum seekers. The result was what Labour's Austin Mitchell described as “unacceptable conditions, some of which were frankly appalling”.</p><p>Not one MP on the committee asked Home Office witnesses to explain why they were happy to hand asylum housing contracts to G4S, known to asylum seekers as the company that killed Jimmy Mubenga.</p> <p>James Thorburn, Serco's Managing Director, Home Affairs went unchallenged when he told the MPs that Serco qualified for the asylum housing contract because ”we care for a lot of vulnerable people and we run two immigration centres, so we understand the immigration market.”</p><p>Serco's “immigration market” includes&nbsp;<a style="color: #0061bf; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/sep/14/yarls-wood-immigrant-sex-abuse-tanja">the notorious Yarl’s Wood</a>&nbsp;women's detention and removal centre where in October 2013 two Serco staff were sacked for sexual abuse of women inmates.</p><p><strong>Fraud and criminality</strong></p> <p>The Public Accounts session was held in the shadow of Serious Fraud Office criminal investigations into both companies' overcharging and fraud on electronic tagging contracts.&nbsp;John Fernau, Commercial Director at the Home Office, said he was “shaken by that news (of the tagging scandal) and was worried that we might find ourselves in the same situation”. He assured the committee that in the housing contracts there “were no improprieties”. </p> <p>Mark Sedwill for the Home Office maintained that the new housing contract was meant to raise standards to make them “adequate for asylum seeker housing” and house the “genuinely vulnerable”, but also to deter the bogus vulnerable.</p> <blockquote><p>“Home Office staffs are very conscious that we are dealing with a population that has a large number of very vulnerable people, particularly women with young families, who have been trafficked and in many cases are still subject to abuse. People really care about that and are quite careful about how they interact with them……but we also need to keep in mind that there is a significant proportion of the asylum seeking population who are seeking to do so (<em>that is,</em> <em>claim asylum housing and support</em>) simply to prolong their stay in the U.K. They do not always present very differently from the genuinely vulnerable, so it is a challenging area of work for us.”</p></blockquote> <p>G4S and Serco are making profits from the UK’s asylum ‘support’ regime, which immigration barrister Frances Webber has described as a “system of institutionalised inhumanity” designed not to support those seeking asylum in the UK, but to deter others from coming to the UK. In the UK, where the state has outsourced its monopoly of violence to private corporations like G4S and Serco, <a href="http://plutopress.wordpress.com/tag/bad-news-for-refugees">the media</a>, pollsters and politicians create <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/the-shameful-go-home-campaign/">an illusion</a> that common sense values and principles have shifted to a view that asylum seekers are almost always “bogus” “failed” or “illegals”. </p><p>Racism and intolerance filters down to the front line management and staff of the Home Office and the staffs of the privatising companies. After the Inquest on Jimmy Mubenga the coroner decided to bring attention to “endemic racism” and the “<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-23579621">pervasive racism within G4S”.</a></p> <p>The Home Office wants a service “adequate” for asylum seekers in the slum private rented sector, and it wants to deter the bogus vulnerable. Labour, who consistently pressed for privatisation of the housing contracts, and Coalition ministers in 2012, knew exactly what they were doing in turning over 20,000 asylum seekers to the mercies of G4S and Serco and the UK private sector housing market. They had a previous National Audit Office report (from 2005) <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2005/aug/03/immigration.immigrationandpublicservices1">to show what could happen</a> – fraud, corruption, and disgusting accommodation for thousands of vulnerable asylum seekers simply waiting for the outcomes of claims for their rights to asylum.</p> <p>Coalition ministers continued Labour’s policy of cutting back harder on asylum support than for other welfare claimants. The privatisation contracts should also be seen in the context of austerity cuts and deficit reduction; tantamount to a declaration of <a href="http://www.tribunemagazine.org/2011/01/the-coalition-has-declared-war-on-the-poor/">war on the poorest and most vulnerable</a>.</p> <p><strong>Business as usual</strong></p> <p>The Financial Times reported in July 2013 <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/169ddbb6-f544-11e2-b4f8-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2aRtonGza">Capita’s chief executive Paul Pindar</a>'s confident prediction of continued handouts from taxpayers to privatising and outsourcing corporations:</p> <p>“The UK’s fiscal deficit would ensure increasing involvement of the private sector in delivering public services, despite growing concerns that outsourcers are failing to give taxpayers value for money. G4S and Serco – that (<em>tagging scandal</em>) row is a complete distraction . . . If you look at the deficit the UK is grappling with, I genuinely don’t believe there will be a knock-on effect. When you talk to the guys in central government, Bill Crothers [chief procurement officer], Francis Maude [Cabinet Office minister], they are very keen to involve the private sector and they are going to push as far ahead with that as they can get.”</p> <p>In August 2012 Capita bought Reliance Security and its asylum housing contract interests for £20 million. From 1 April 2014 Capita will take over the discredited tagging contracts from G4S and Serco. Of the £4.2 billion of government contracts out to tender, in 2013/14 about 60 per cent are funded by taxpayers.</p> <p>The voices from asylum seeker tenants surfaced occasionally in the Public Accounts Committee last week. The committee even persuaded Home Office officials to agree that it was a mistake to give the contracts to huge companies with no experience of housing. They conceded that in future it would probably be a good idea to “disaggregate” future provision to small companies and housing associations. That's of little comfort to people now living in asylum housing. The contracts have more than five years to run. The disrespect and humiliations go on and on.</p><hr /><p><em>Author's recommendation: Frances Webber's </em><a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/immigration-bill-passes-through-commons/"><em>brilliant exposé of the Immigration Bill</em></a><em>, currently making its way through Parliament: "Another punitive Bill which strips away legal protection from migrants and will increase homelessness, ill health and destitution, seems for now to have tri-partisan support."&nbsp;</em></p><p class="paddingtonpresslist"><strong><em>Liked this piece? Please donate to OurKingdom&nbsp;</em></strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><strong><em>here&nbsp;</em></strong></a><strong><em>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/living-with-rats-landlord-g4s">Living with rats. Landlord G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-owes-thousands-of-pounds-on-energy-bills">G4S owes thousands of pounds on energy bills</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/after-mubenga-unlawful-killing-verdict-could-asylum-seekers-have-worse-land">After Mubenga unlawful killing verdict: Could asylum seekers have a worse landlord than G4S?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seeker-housing-managed-by-for-profit-prison-guards-why-not">Asylum seeker housing managed by for-profit prison guards? Why not</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-turns-profit-in-asylum-markets-whos-speaking-out-and-whose-lips-are-sea">G4S turns a profit in “asylum markets”: who&#039;s speaking out and whose lips are sealed?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-asylum-housing-fiasco-descends-into-farce">G4S asylum-housing fiasco descends into farce</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/jimmy-mubenga-and-shame-of-british-airways">Jimmy Mubenga and the shame of British Airways</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/g4s-tale-of-two-troubled-prisons">G4S: A tale of two troubled prisons</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/truth-about-sexual-abuse-at-yarls-wood-detention-centre">The truth about sexual abuse at Yarl&#039;s Wood detention centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/g4s-guard-fatally-restrains-15-year-old-gets-promoted">G4S guard fatally restrains 15 year old - gets promoted</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Shine A Light John Grayson Wed, 12 Feb 2014 00:00:45 +0000 John Grayson 79249 at https://www.opendemocracy.net G4S owes thousands of pounds on energy bills https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-owes-thousands-of-pounds-on-energy-bills <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It's Britain's leading meter-reader. But in the homes it provides for asylum seekers, outsourcing giant G4S leaves energy bills unpaid.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>When I visited an asylum seeker called Esther and her five year old daughter in their Yorkshire home the other day I counted eight unopened bills for energy and water. </p> <p>One of the bills from British Gas, for £451.34, was headed:</p><blockquote><p><em>‘Warrant to change your meter or disconnect’</em></p></blockquote> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/P1000156.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/P1000156.JPG" alt="" title="" width="160" height="120" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A letter from the debt collector</span></span></span>The letter threatened court action on 25 October and forced entry on 7 November.&nbsp;Esther, who has already fought a <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/living-with-rats-landlord-g4s">long battle to live in decent rat free accommodation</a>, was worried.</p><p>Why is Esther in arrears?</p><p> Her landlord is the international security company G4S. Thanks to a privatisation contract, G4S is one of Britain's largest private landlords of publicly-funded asylum housing. (The others are Serco and Clearel.)</p><p>In Yorkshire, G4S provides what Keith Vaz, chair of the Parliamentary Home Affairs committee, has called “squalid” and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/oct/11/asylum-claimants-delays-housing-unacceptable-report">"appalling" housing conditions</a>&nbsp;for asylum seeker families.</p> <p>Under the terms of the contract, paying energy and water bills is the landlord's responsibility. After a means test, people awaiting the outcome of asylum claims are given furnished housing including heating and lighting. The landlord gets taxpayers' money from the Home Office, and the landlord pays the bills.</p><p>But G4S, ironically&nbsp;<a href="http://www.g4s.uk.com/en-GB/What%20we%20do/Services/Utility%20services/">the UK's leading meter readers</a>, aren't paying their bills.</p> <p>In one West Yorkshire case by September this year, G4S and their subcontractor Cascade Housing had incurred an energy company debt of £2800.48 on one flat occupied by a lone woman asylum seeker and her child. I visited the woman late in 2012 and witnessed the appalling neglect of the new apartments by Cascade and G4S. </p> <p>Communal areas were full of rubbish and fire exits were blocked.&nbsp;Light bulbs in high ceilings had not been replaced, rooms were in permanent darkness, smoke alarms continuously bleeped.</p><p>Now in September 2013 the tenant faced fresh worry — a hand-delivered demand from debt collectors. Resolvecall of Manchester, acting for British Gas, threatened court action and asserted their right "to enter the premises if necessary by force" to collect the debt. </p> <p>On 9 October a charity working with asylum seekers in West Yorkshire reported that the unpaid bills and threatening letters to asylum seeker tenants stretched back almost a year.</p> <p>A charity organiser said:</p> <blockquote><p>“Several people in Cascade properties have for some time been receiving notifications of unpaid gas bills. We have been contacting Cascade and G4S about this since last November. Now it seems that British Gas are installing pay-as-you-go meters in these properties, sometimes with a gap in the provision of gas. One family with a young child was without gas for five days, another family has been without gas for five days... and a property for single people…three days.”</p></blockquote> <p>The pay meters were common in asylum housing which Cascade provided in Leeds in December 2012 and January 2013. Landlords keep the meter cards and should visit monthly, having put cash on the cards. This did not happen in Leeds. Cascade staff failed to attend until they were rung up <em>after</em> the electricity supply failed.</p> <p>Women tenants with pay meters were left for days in freezing weather without heating and lighting, waiting for Cascade staff to top up the meters. </p> <p>One tenant, Ruth, told me:</p> <blockquote><p>“It is an electricity card meter so if it runs out at night or the weekend, <a href="http://www.inependent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/another-g4s-blunder-councils-attack-security-giant-after-housing-contract-shambles-leaves-families-living-in-squalor-8329407.html">we have to live in darkness</a> and without a cooker because we cannot top it up.”</p></blockquote> <p>Leeds City council intervened and pushed G4S to abandon the pay meters. But in other parts of Yorkshire Cascade and G4S are simply not paying gas, electricity and water bills and the energy companies are harassing already vulnerable tenants for unpaid bills – and reintroducing pay meters.</p> <p>In Barnsley a few days ago I visited a G4S slum property which had been occupied by four lone women asylum seekers since March 2013. The house had a pay meter in a damp grim cellar.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/P1000151.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/P1000151.jpg" alt="" title="" width="160" height="120" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pay meter in a dark cellar</span></span></span></p> <p>They told me that on two weekends over the hot summer months the money ran out and the electricity was cut off. Housing workers from Live Management (the G4S subcontractor at that time in South Yorkshire) did not work weekends and could not visit to feed the meter. Both the fridge freezers in the house stopped working. The tenants' food was ruined. The women had to replace the food on their meagre funds from the Home Office. One of them receives no cash - only £35 a week on an Azure shopping card. </p> <p>Esther had another unannounced visit on 30 October, this time a British gas engineer saying he was going to install a pay electricity meter and,&nbsp;in view of the arrears,&nbsp;she had no choice but to accept it. He said he was installing another seven pay meters that day in asylum housing.</p> <p>The massive and profitable Home Office asylum-housing contracts are paid for entirely by UK taxpayers. It surely is bizarre that G4S are making the everyday life of their asylum tenants stressful and uncomfortable by refusing to hand over public funds to pay fuel and water bills. </p> <p>This year G4S asylum housing has been condemned by a Childrens’ Society <a href="http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/news-views/press-release/woeful-asylum-support-pushes-children-and-families-destitution">Parliamentary inquiry</a>, by a full scale investigation by the Parliamentary Home Affairs committee, and is under investigation by the National Audit Office and the Chief Inspector for Borders and Immigration.</p><p> Surely it is time the Home Office was forced to cancel the COMPASS contract and to return coordination of asylum housing contractors to local councils to provide decent housing for those waiting, often for many years, for the outcome of their claims for asylum.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/living-with-rats-landlord-g4s">Living with rats. Landlord G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/after-mubenga-unlawful-killing-verdict-could-asylum-seekers-have-worse-land">After Mubenga unlawful killing verdict: Could asylum seekers have a worse landlord than G4S?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seeker-housing-managed-by-for-profit-prison-guards-why-not">Asylum seeker housing managed by for-profit prison guards? Why not</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-turns-profit-in-asylum-markets-whos-speaking-out-and-whose-lips-are-sea">G4S turns a profit in “asylum markets”: who&#039;s speaking out and whose lips are sealed?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-asylum-housing-fiasco-descends-into-farce">G4S asylum-housing fiasco descends into farce</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Shine A Light John Grayson Wed, 13 Nov 2013 01:10:25 +0000 John Grayson 76450 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Living with rats. Landlord G4S https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/living-with-rats-landlord-g4s <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>While a company executive assured the UK Parliament there was nothing to worry about, a child in a G4S house counted rats.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On 25 June this year G4S executive Stephen Small was being grilled by members of the <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmhaff/uc71-iii/uc71.pdf">Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee</a> about his company's role in the privatisation of housing for asylum seekers in Yorkshire.</p><p>About the same time Esther (not her real name) and her four year old daughter were wakening up in their G4S Yorkshire asylum house to the scampering of rats in their ceilings, roof space, basement, living rooms, and bedrooms.</p> <p>Stephen Small told MPs he simply <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/after-mubenga-unlawful-killing-verdict-could-asylum-seekers-have-worse-landl">"did not recognise”</a> reports of "hideous conditions" in asylum housing that <a href="http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?gid=2013-02-27b.84.4">Chris Bryant, shadow Minister for Immigration</a>, and a Parliamentary inquiry had exposed.</p> <p>You'd think a <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/another-g4s-scandal-uks-privatised-asylum-housing-market-is-falling-apart">former Rentokil executive</a> would recognise a rat. Small and his G4S workers in Yorkshire certainly should have been able to deal with the rats in Esther’s house – and the four foot high grass in the garden and the rubbish where the rats were thriving. </p> <p>Instead, Esther's house, riddled by rats, stayed that way for months. All the way from June to October complaints to G4S and their subcontractors Cascade —&nbsp;from Esther, from volunteers who tried to help, went ignored or prompted only token action. </p> <p><strong>Seven years of waiting for asylum</strong></p> <p>Esther has been waiting for seven years for asylum in the UK. Pregnant in 2007, she was locked up in the Bedfordshire detention centre, Yarl's Wood. Esther was sent to an Initial Accommodation Centre in Yorkshire and finally to good quality local council accommodation where she had contacts and friends around. Then in 2012 the Home Office privatised asylum housing in Yorkshire, and G4S was given the contract, part of what promised to be the largest ever awarded by the Home Office, £1.8 billion in total.</p> <p>In November 2012 Esther was moved with her four year old daughter out of council accommodation to a house owned by a local private landlord, who had contracted it to Cascade, the G4S subcontractor in West Yorkshire. The house was filthy. The bathroom sink and bath were unusable, stained and coated with grime<strong>. </strong>For weeks Esther and her daughter had to use a bucket for washing. The front door was broken and did not lock. For three weeks in an unfamiliar neighbourhood Esther had to barricade the door at night for her security. The mattresses were stained and dirty and had to be replaced. For a month constant complaints finally got cleaners from the landlords to make the bathroom fit for use.</p> <p>The landlord supplied only a brush and mop for Esther to clean the carpeted house. Purchasing a vacuum cleaner is way beyond her means. As an asylum seeker she is not allowed to work and is trapped in <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/30/asylum-theresa-may-private-fiefdom">the nightmare of Section 4 ‘support’</a>, with no cash and dependent on her Azure shopping card which gives her and her daughter just £70 a week.</p> <p><strong>Six months complaining for action on the rats</strong></p> <p>In May 2013 Esther complained to Cascade about the long grass in her garden, and the rubbish left over the winter. In late June 2013 rats were running around the basement in the house, in the living room and in ceiling and roof spaces. Esther’s little daughter remembers them running past her. Esther contacted Cascade about the rats and the grass and rubbish and for a month nothing was done. On 30 July Esther sent a text to the manager of Cascade asking when the grass was going to be cut which said</p> <p>"House full of rats…please consider my request it is been months asking nothing done thanks"</p> <p>On 16 August Esther complained again that the rats were still in the house, and in the grass which was now four feet tall. She was told photographs would be taken and pest control alerted. Esther continued to call Cascade and by the last week in September one of her volunteer supporters complained direct to G4S and was told that the problem was on the system but that these problems take 4 to 6 weeks to sort out <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>. . . &nbsp;In fact Esther and her four year old daughter had now lived for three months with the rubbish, the grass and the rats.</p> <p><strong>Rats but no privacy……</strong></p> <p>They also had to live throughout their six months ordeal with unannounced visits from men from Cascade – not about the rats but other matters. A couple of weeks before I visited Esther one worker banged on the door and shouted to be let in. Esther has a mobile and had texted the landlord about complaints but Cascade workers failed to make an appointment by mobile or e-mail, just turned up with their keys at the ready.</p> <p>Esther told me that the loud banging brought back memories of detention. Neither G4S nor Cascade over the past year have ever sent a female housing worker to contact Esther – they still do not employ such a worker in this part of Yorkshire – despite the fact that G4S/Cascade staffs have been <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/their-secret-is-out-but-for-g4s-and-friends-%E2%80%98abject-disregard-for-human-dign">accused of harassing vulnerable women tenants</a> in the past.</p> <p>So why did Stephen Small of G4S tell this to the Home Affairs Committee on 25 June:</p> <p>“It would appear …that there is a consistent practice of our housing officers entering properties regularly unannounced and without any notification. We just do not recognise that whatsoever…..We plan our visits…When we arrive at properties as we have made an appointment to do, we will do the usual thing, knock on the door ring on the bell, to have someone answer.”</p> <p>On 26 September and 3 October a volunteer called G4S, warning the company that the matter would be brought to public attention and the local MPs would be informed.</p> <p>G4S said the rubbish had gone and pest control had been alerted. The volunteer told them bluntly on 10 October that nothing had been done and there was still rubbish in the garden dating back to November 2012. </p> <p>A full eight days later and six months after Esther first complained, there was a reply from G4S, apologising for the delay and confirming the grass cutting was being completed and the pest control worker had visited and traps laid. </p> <p><strong>The Home Affairs Committee reports and falters</strong></p> <p>A week earlier on Friday 11 October the Home Affairs committee’s long awaited report on the Asylum system was released. Committee chair Keith Vaz MP, &nbsp;introducing the Report, said:</p> <blockquote><p>“We were alarmed to discover that thousands appear to be living in squalid run-down housing as part of the COMPASS contract supplied by the private contractors G4S, Serco and Clearel. These companies must be held accountable and deliver a satisfactory level of service.”</p></blockquote> <p>The committee raised concerns about <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/oct/11/asylum-claimants-delays-housing-unacceptable-report">the "appalling" housing conditions</a> faced by asylum-seekers. They:</p> <blockquote><p>“were very concerned by the description of the substandard level of housing provided to asylum applicants. Furthermore the length of time that witnesses report it taking to get problems resolved is unacceptable.” (Para 93)</p></blockquote> <p>Unfortunately for Esther all the committee came up with on squalid housing, and the lack respect for asylum family privacy, was a recommendation to publish Home Office house inspection reports, and that guidelines and advice to contractors should be strengthened when the contract is renewed — that is, in four years time, in June 2017. Not much help for Esther and women like her.</p><p> I call in on Esther on 22 October, almost a year after she moved in. The house is clean and cheerful, except for the rat poison containers in the kitchen, living room and bedrooms. There is a hole in a window frame in Esther’s bedroom where a dead rat was removed a couple of days earlier. At least now, Esther says, “the horrible smell has gone”. Esther points with relief to the trim gardens where the ‘jungle’ of grass and weeds and rubbish, had been cleared. She feels her neighbours might feel better now living next to an asylum seeker.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p class="paddingtonpresslist"><strong><em>Liked this piece? Please donate to OurKingdom </em></strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/donate"><strong><em>here </em></strong></a><strong><em>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</em></strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-owes-thousands-of-pounds-on-energy-bills">G4S owes thousands of pounds on energy bills</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/after-mubenga-unlawful-killing-verdict-could-asylum-seekers-have-worse-land">After Mubenga unlawful killing verdict: Could asylum seekers have a worse landlord than G4S?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seeker-housing-managed-by-for-profit-prison-guards-why-not">Asylum seeker housing managed by for-profit prison guards? Why not</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-turns-profit-in-asylum-markets-whos-speaking-out-and-whose-lips-are-sea">G4S turns a profit in “asylum markets”: who&#039;s speaking out and whose lips are sealed?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-asylum-housing-fiasco-descends-into-farce">G4S asylum-housing fiasco descends into farce</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Shine A Light John Grayson Tue, 12 Nov 2013 01:46:51 +0000 John Grayson 76441 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Welcome to Britain: 'Go Home or Face Arrest' https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/welcome-to-britain-go-home-or-face-arrest <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;"><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/ok-friday-essay.png" alt="" width="50" /> For decades racists have yelled <em>"Go Home"</em> at&nbsp;</span>minority ethnic and&nbsp;Black people. Now the government is doing it in a reviled and provocative advertising campaign aimed, ostensibly, at 'illegal immigrants'. John Grayson reflects on a nasty piece of work. See also <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/robina-qureshi/we-all-belong-to-glasgow-refugees-are-welcome-here">We all belong to Glasgow - Refugees Are Welcome Here</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The Conservatives played their race card early for the 2015 election. The Home Office sent vans touring London boroughs, bearing the message: "In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest." </p> <p>The Conservative Communities Secretary Eric Pickles&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-23632096">told the BBC</a>: </p><blockquote><p>"Given Labour's open-door immigration policy, I don't see anything offensive as suggesting to illegal immigrants that their stay in this country might be shorter than they thought."</p></blockquote><p>"Go Home". Words all too familiar to migrants down the decades, words favoured by racist and fascist National Front graffiti in the 1970s.</p> <p>"The messages subliminally warned all people of colour not to get too comfortable, to assume we were safe," wrote <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-governments-shameful-scapegoating-of-immigrants-8745342.html">Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the <em>Independent</em></a>. "We who came to stay jumped through hoops of fire to get acceptance. But now we know it can be withdrawn … The Tories always use the race card. They don’t even pretend inclusion any more." </p> <p>Krishnan Guru-Murthy, presenting <em>Channel 4 News</em> on 30 July, said: </p> <blockquote><p>"It is the use of that phrase 'Go Home'. Anyone, any immigrant or non-white person who grew up in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s heard that phrase as a term of racist abuse – and the government has put it on a poster."</p></blockquote> <p>Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, noted the coincidence of the&nbsp; Go Home campaign and random checks by Border Agency officials in Kensal Green. <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-doreen-lawrence-pledges-to-condemn-racial-profiling-spot-checks-in-the-house-of-lords-8742754.html">"It leaves a very nasty taste in the mouth,"</a> he said. "These so-called spot checks are not only intimidating but they are also racist and divisive."</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GoHome-580x280.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/GoHome-580x280.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="193" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>For many years now, anti racist campaigners have been disarmed and cowed by arguments across the political spectrum that racism no longer features in mainstream politics. "Some of our debating muscles have atrophied," notes <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/07/bigots-ukip-godfrey-bloom-bongo-bongo">Zoe Williams in the Guardian</a>—&nbsp;and this at a time when "bigots roam more freely and noisily than they have for three decades".</p> <p>Political parties have systematically poisoned debates around asylum, immigration, terrorism and law and order with trigger phrases that allegedly appeal to the supposed racist views of key sections of the electorate.</p> <p>Lynton Crosby, now employed by the Conservatives again, is admired by his peers in the world of special advisers, pollsters, public relations, and the political elite of all parties. He is credited with the election of John Howard as Australia’s prime minister in 1998 and 2001 and with the re-election of Boris Johnson as mayor of London in 2012. </p> <p>Here's John McTernan, former political secretary to Tony Blair and head of communications for Australia’s Julia Gillard. He's speaking of Michael Howard’s disastrous 2005 campaign for the Tories, when, incidentally, David Cameron wrote Howard’s speeches&nbsp;"Remember the 2005 general election?" says McTernan:</p><blockquote><p> "<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/10202559/Lynton-Crosby-is-a-master-strategist-with-the-common-touch.html">The best thing about it was Crosby’s language</a>, the dozen words that crisply defined the Tories, the subversive, persuasive – and correct – slogan: 'It’s not racist to worry about immigration.' Wrong time, wrong candidate, sure, but spot on because Crosby … does some of the best polling in the world."</p></blockquote> <p>The assumption here is that the electorate is racist, not the politicians, nor the media. Mainstream parties see their electorate being attracted to the ‘extremist’ and ‘populist’ far Right which successfully (according to this theory), mobilise the fears and insecurity of ‘decent working people’ for political and electoral gain. The parties then pitch their ‘narratives’, their sound-bites <em>and their policies</em> within a political discourse to ‘triangulate’ beyond the populist Right to capture their wholly constructed and invented racist electorates.</p> <p><strong><em>Decent working people</em></strong></p> <p>The electorate is presented as ‘entitled’ to be racist, politicians are simply giving them a voice. The myth of the lack of debate on immigration and asylum is wheeled out. When Gordon Brown in 2010 called a Labour Party worker a ‘bigot’ for her views on Polish immigrants he broke the new golden rule of electoral politics that xenophobia, prejudice and racism should be harnessed, not confronted.</p> <p>Philomena Essed challenges this notion of ‘entitlement racism’. Speaking at the University of Edinburgh this past June, Essed argued that these actions of bullying and shaming are racist. They are exercises in power by white majorities against excluded minorities mainly composed of people of colour. </p> <p>In reality, as Malcolm Dean demonstrates in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.policypress.co.uk/display.asp?K=9781847428486"><em>Democracy under attack: how the media distort policy and politics</em></a> (2013), media and politicians have combined to create racist discourses. Dean argues that the Conservatives’ 1996 Asylum and Immigration Act demonstrated "the depths to which Michael Howard sank in playing the race card". He points to the Conservatives in 1996, facing electoral crisis, embarking on the "deliberate politicisation of asylum, race and refugees in a desperate attempt to rally support as their poll ratings plummeted".<a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/the-shameful-go-home-campaign/#_edn6"></a></p> <p>In her recent study of "social abjection and resistance" Imogen Tyler describes "the asylum invasion complex" which has dominated political and media debates and discourses since the Labour government’s asylum legislation of 1999 and 2000. In <a href="http://zedbooks.co.uk/node/11890"><em><span>Revolting Subjects: Social Abjection and Resistance in Neoliberal Britain</span></em></a> (Zed Books, 2013), Tyler tracks the way in which key notions, now bright markers of racist debate, were nurtured by politicians molding public opinion. Tyler quotes Conservative Michael (now Lord) Heseltine, writing in the <em>Daily Mail</em> in 2001. He touches upon some of the xenophobic themes:</p> <blockquote><p>"As Deputy Prime Minister (in 1995-7) I came to three stark conclusions. The first is that a very large number of those seeking asylum are cheats, quite deliberately making bogus claims and false allegations in order to get into this country … The second was that the demands on scarce housing and medical care made by dishonest 'economic migrants' (were) likely to stretch the patience of voters … The third was that the problem of phoney asylum seekers was likely to grow as the impression spread that this country was a soft touch. Above all, I could see no reason why my most vulnerable constituents – honest and hard working people who paid their taxes all their lives – should be pushed to the back of the queue for housing and hospital treatment by dubious asylum seekers." </p></blockquote> <p>Here, in the very first months of the new century, a powerful political consensus on asylum was being sown across mainstream political parties establishing a vocabulary of ‘common sense racism’. Tyler tracks 512 references to bogus asylum seekers in Hansard in Commons and Lords debates between 1991 and 2005. In the 1980s there were eight mentions of the term. </p> <p><strong><em>New Labour's contribution</em></strong><strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong></p> <p>Philip Gould, policy adviser and pollster for Tony Blair, in 1999 produced a paper entitled <em>Hard-working families: a new narrative for the government. </em>Gould spelled out "how the swirling fragments of public opinion were finally taking shape." (<a href="http://www.littlebrown.co.uk/Books/detail.page?isbn=9780349138572"><em><span>The Unfinished Revolution: how New Labour changed British politics forever</span></em></a>, Abacus, 2011).</p> <p>Gould's analysis still dominates political thinking in the Labour Party and beyond —&nbsp;the idea that electoral political narratives should be driven by ‘the politics of grievance’ where working people, particularly the ‘white working class’ instinctively blame ‘the immigrant’ for their economic and social exploitation and marginalisation.</p> <p>Here he goes:</p> <blockquote><p>"A call for fairness has become a cry of grievance, resentment and anger, expressing the view that my life is bad because others are unfairly benefitting. Clearly this is fertile ground not just for the right but for the far right … every voice should be heard: we should listen to opinions that we may not like … The politics of grievance can be harsh … a start was made (by New Labour) in dealing with immigration." </p></blockquote> <p><strong><em>A racist electorate?</em></strong><strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong></p> <p>In fact in 1997 only 3 per cent of the electorate put asylum in their three top political concerns. Up to 2000 it was never higher than 10 per cent. But, crucially, argues Malcolm Dean: "As the numbers of asylum applications began to rise … so did tabloid interest. This in turn fed more public concern … In early 2003 the <em>Sun</em> launched its ‘Stop asylum madness’ campaign which by 1 March 2003 had collected one million signatures." </p> <p>The <em>Mail, Express, Telegraph a</em>nd <em>the Sun</em> competed with lurid headlines in 2002. According to Dean, in 2003 the <em>Daily</em> <em>Express</em> ran "22 front page splashes in one 31 day period about asylum seekers". </p> <p>Phillip Gould constructed "the politics of patriotism" which in 2002 he identified as "emerging in a new form, more about grievance than pride". A policy note he wrote for Blair in April 2002 was unambiguously headed: </p><blockquote><p>"Concern about asylum seekers has extended into immigration, crime, and civic disintegration. Britain is becoming a soft touch."</p></blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2005/apr/25/uk.conservatives">Gary Younge, reporting</a> on the re-emergence of immigration as an electoral issue in the general election of 2005, reminds us that David Blunkett "conflated immigration and race when responding to the riots in Bradford with calls for citizenship classes and language lessons as though those involved were foreign." Here's what Blunkett said shortly before the reports into the disturbances was released. "We have norms of acceptability. And those who come into our home —&nbsp;for that is what it is — should accept those norms just as we would have to do if we went elsewhere." </p> <p>Lately Daniel Trilling &nbsp;—&nbsp;in <a href="http://www.versobooks.com/books/1417-bloody-nasty-people"><em><span>Bloody Nasty People: the rise of Britain’s far right</span></em></a> (Verso, 2012) —&nbsp;noted how Blunkett, as Labour’s Home Secretary overseeing the first wave of asylum dispersal after 2000, retrieved Thatcherite racist language. In a radio interview in April 2002 just before local elections in which the BNP fielded candidates in former riot areas, Blunkett accused asylum seekers’ children of ‘swamping’ British schools. </p> <p>Labour, threatened by a media frenzy and perhaps inspired by the growing success of Le Pen in France, decided to go for ‘triangulation’ to occupy the space opened up by the BNP. </p> <p>In February 2003, Tony Blair on BBC <em>Newsnight</em> dramatically announced his abandonment of policies under the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, and an immediate cut in asylum claimants by 50 per cent over the next eight months. Britain would make it "extremely difficult for people fleeing from persecution to reach the shores of the UK," he said. </p> <p>Together press and politicians concocted a moral panic. Dean cites a 2003 survey that suggested people believed the UK received 23 per cent of the world’s refugees. The true proportion was just under 2 per cent. </p><p> <em><strong>‘Gypsies you can't come in'</strong><br /></em></p> <p>From 2001 to 2004 the Labour government also embraced an openly racist immigration policy first towards Roma asylum seekers, and then for Roma migrant workers from countries joining the EU in 2004. In 2001 Jack Straw as Foreign Secretary instituted discriminatory visa policies aimed at Roma for Slovakian and Czech citizens. Straw established visa desks in the British embassy in Bratislava. Speaking at Glasgow University on 15th October 2001, Dr Jan J <a href="mailto:culik@blisty.cz"><span>Č</span><span>ulík</span></a> described the "British immigration racist filter" introduced at Prague Ruzyně Airport on the 18th July 2001 "with the tacit agreement of the Czech authorities". </p> <p>Now, as UKIP campaigns against Roma workers from eastern Europe coming to Britain, these things are worth recalling. In ‘<a href="http://balticworlds.com/the-romanies/"><span>A European dilemma: The Romanies</span></a>’ (<em>Baltic Worlds</em> Vol. III, no. 1, 2010) Irka Cedarburg describes what happened in January 2004, just before the EU was to admit ten new members, eight of which were east and central European countries: </p> <p>"The British popular press initiated an unprecedented witch-hunt, painting vivid pictures of hordes of impoverished East European Romanies swarming into the country. On January 18 2004, the <em>Sunday Times</em> proclaimed that East European Romanies were just waiting for the day of the EU’s eastern expansion to start out towards the West. The <em>Sun</em>, Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid, claimed that tens of thousands of 'Gypsies' were standing ready to stream in … The following day, the number of Romanies prepared to 'stream in' had, according to the <em>Daily Express</em>, grown to 1.6 million." </p> <p>The <em>Daily Express</em> proclaimed on 20 January 2004: "The Roma gypsies of Eastern Europe are heading to Britain to leech on us. We do not want them here" (quoted in the <a href="http://www.economist.com/node/2405099/print?Story_ID=2405099"><em>Economist, </em>5 February 2004</a>). On 5 February 2004, the <em>Daily Express</em> front page thundered in fat headlines: ‘GYPSIES YOU CAN’T COME IN’.</p> <p>Against this hate-campaign no protests were heard from politicians in Britain or other EU countries. Instead, the Labour government introduced restrictions on welfare benefits for jobseekers coming to Britain from the EU’s new member countries. "This could be seen as a silent endorsement of the British media’s anti-Romani campaign," wrote Cedarberg. </p> <p>Campaigning ahead of the 2010 election, <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/playing-the-gypsy-race-card/">Eric Pickles wooed Tory voters with his tales of ‘illegal’ actions by Gypsies and Travellers</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/6292183174_6c4ce2af4e_o_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/6292183174_6c4ce2af4e_o_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Graffiti, Birmingham 2011 Adam Yosef / I Am Birmingham</span></span></span>Lately we've seen <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/clearing-roma-off-the-streets/">police actions against Roma in London</a>. With more elections looming the press is highlighting <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2387747/Eric-Pickles-attacks-traveller-sites-trash-countryside.html">Coalition policies on Gypsies and Travellers.</a></p> <p><strong><em>The 'new migrant flood'</em></strong><strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong></p> <p>UKIP the <em>Daily Express</em>, and the wider media, have railed against Roma from Bulgaria and Romania entering the UK freely as EU workers from January 2014. Nigel Farage, UKIP leader, travelled to Bulgaria to dissuade ‘Bulgarians’ from coming to the UK but he was filmed only in ‘Roma’ communities. The British press now routinely prints photos exclusively of Roma families in articles on the <a href="http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/383891/Outrage-at-new-migrant-flood-Public-force-MPs-to-debate-block-on-benefit-tourists">"new migrant flood"</a>. </p> <p>In the Rotherham by-election of November 2012, Nigel Farage incessantly championed <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/nov/30/ukip-row-many-reasons-children-removed">the case of the ‘UKIP couple’</a> apparently "barred" from fostering children, even though the local authority had simply followed legal rulings on the placement of Roma children. That didn't stop David Cameron and Ed Miliband spouting the UKIP version of events. The result was second place for UKIP in the by-election in Labour's South Yorkshire heartlands and UKIP winning Rawmarsh a safe Labour local council seat, in last May’s elections.</p> <p>The Prime Minister seemed to be following Blair’s example from 2004, when, earlier this year in a <em>Daily Express</em> interview, headlined ‘David Cameron vows to get tough on freeloading foreigners’, he announced measures to restrict benefits to EU migrants. </p> <p>On 8 March, Yvette Cooper Labour’s shadow Home Secretary <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/mar/07/labour-measures-restrict-benefits-arrivals">"decided to outdo the government’s attempt to tighten new migrants’ access to benefits and services"</a> in her own proposals to stop them claiming Jobseekers Allowance soon after arrival, and restricting payment of family benefits to dependents left in their own EU country. </p> <p>The race to the bottom gained pace: on 24 March Cameron pledged that new migrants would <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/new-migrants-will-not-get-free-housing-warns-david-cameron-as-prime-minister-stakes-out-ground-for-next-election-8547114.html">"not get free housing"</a> and announced restrictions on access to the NHS. He accused Labour in government of being a ‘soft touch’ and pledged to "back people who work hard and do the right thing". </p> <p>That's the Heseltine script.</p> <p>The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/mar/29/eu-watchdog-britain-shameful-rhetoric-migrants">Nils Muiznieks intervened</a> on 30 March. "It is unacceptable to treat Bulgarian and Romanian citizens like a scourge," he said. "It is time to blow the whistle on such shameful rhetoric." Restricting access to benefits, housing and healthcare, he said, "will only increase their social exclusion, fuel anti-immigration rhetoric and create even more social problems in the long run." </p> <p>Muiznieks went on: "A stigma is put on Bulgarian and Romanian citizens because of their origin … They need to be treated as everyone else not on the basis of assumptions or generalizations about their ethnic origin." </p> <p>He reminded political leaders of their responsibility to turn around "the heated political debates in Britain and Germany on the threat posed by a supposed imminent flood of Roma from Bulgaria and Romania."</p> <p><strong><em>Challenging the language</em></strong></p> <p>Trilling has pointed out: "Ukip’s core positions on immigration and on cultural diversity appeal as far as they can, within the boundaries of acceptable language, to racism."&nbsp;Lately, UKIP's Nigel Farage embarked on the ‘Common Sense Tour’.</p> <p>The British press holds a surprising affection for Nigel Farage despite ugly revelations about the quality of his candidates and links to nationalist and racist politicians in the Northern League in Italy, to Marine Le Pen and the FN in France, and to Finnish extremist nationalists.</p> <p><em>The</em> <em>Guardian</em>'s Decca Aitkenhead&nbsp;in January said <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/jan/07/nigel-farage-party-eccentrics-ukip">Farage</a>&nbsp;was:</p><blockquote><p>"one of the most surprising politicians I have met – charismatic, funny, indefatigably good natured and essentially cheerful towards absolutely everyone, apart from the prime minister and Rotherham council." </p></blockquote> <p>James Naughtie on BBC's <em>Today</em> programme enjoyed a joke with UKIP's Geoffrey Bloom about his appalling <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/07/bigots-ukip-godfrey-bloom-bongo-bongo">‘Bongo Bongo land’ comments</a>. </p> <p>Perhaps BBC broadcasters feel pressure to move to the right, closer to the ‘common sense’ position. &nbsp;Last month the Corporation’s Trust published <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/jul/03/bbc-deep-liberal-bias-immigration">the findings of an independent inquiry into political bias</a> particularly on immigration. </p> <p>Helen Boaden, former head of news and now head of BBC Radio apologised for the BBC’s past "deep liberal bias" on immigration issues. She conceded that the BBC had in the past failed to take lobby group Migration Watch "as seriously as it might have".<a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/the-shameful-go-home-campaign/#_edn38"></a></p> <p>Perhaps this accounts for the ease with which spokesmen for groups like the English Defence League have been given BBC air time over recent months. Pressure on the BBC to bring extreme right opinions into the mainstream continues with ‘research’ from the Centre for Policy Studies <a href="http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/comment/columns/article1298511.ece">accusing the corporation of ‘Left wing bias’</a> in its coverage of research from think-tanks.</p> <p><strong><em>'Common sense'</em></strong><strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong></p> <p>Labour's Chris Bryant’s attempt to present his party's immigration policies as somehow new succeeded only in stirring up the racist ‘British jobs for British workers’ elements in the trades unions and the media. Bryant's and Ed Miliband’s call for "language tests for care workers" fed into <a href="http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/main-topics/general-news/exclusive-councils-spend-1-5m-on-language-services-1-5582888">campaigns on translation costs in local government</a> and the NHS, and language issues in multicultural schools.</p> <p>In the world of immigration and asylum the language of what Imogen Tyler calls ‘abjection’ is on the rise: the term ‘illegal immigrant’ is the description of choice according to new report from Migration Observatory. (<a href="http://www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/reports/migration-news">PDF</a>) </p> <p>Tyler argues for resistance through ‘counter mapping’, contesting terms and language and pushing alternative ways of seeing social issues and marginalised groups. (One small hurrah: The latest Associated Press style guide rejects the term ‘illegal’ immigrant or the use of ‘illegal’ to describe a person.) </p> <p>That racist rhetoric provokes racist action is a self-evident. Speech <em>is </em>action. Here's coroner Karon Monaghan writing about the culture of security company G4S in her report following the Inquest into that company's unlawful killing of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan detainee. Monaghan noted, </p><blockquote><p>"a pervasive racism within G4S … It seems unlikely that endemic racism would not impact at all on service provision. The possibility that such racism might find reflection in race-based antipathy towards detainees and deportees, and that in turn might manifest itself in inappropriate treatment of them."</p></blockquote> <p>We must challenge a political class who parade in the media their own constructed political polling data and official ‘spin’ on government statistics as somehow ‘true’ representations of ‘the people’ or ‘public opinion’. </p> <p>How? By setting the facts straight for a start. <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/mar/11/immigrants-english-second-language"><em>The Guardian's </em>Hugh Muir</a> notes that in the 2011 census returns, "Only 1.6 per cent of the population said they could not speak English well and only 0.3 per cent of the total population don’t speak English at all." </p> <p>David Stuckler challenged assertions that data from the British Social Attitudes Survey suggested that young Britons born after 1979 rejected liberal and egalitarian views of the world. Stuckler demonstrated that, on the contrary, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/30/generation-y-halfhearted-its-a-lie">the data shows that young people’s support for increased spending on welfare rose 3.5 per cent from 2010 to 2011</a>. He points to the number of mainstream newspaper articles using the word ‘scrounger’ rose from 173 in 2009 to 572 in 2011 with corresponding millions of hits on ‘Google’. </p><p>Stuckler warns that "the repeated (but inaccurate) portrayal of young people being against social spending also perhaps 'risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy'." </p> <p>In the campaign against security company G4S and their <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/g4s-asylum-housing-evictions-begin-mother-and-baby-dumped-in-substandard-fla">outsourcing of asylum-seeker housing</a>, activists and tenants alike contested and critiqued the company's own term ‘asylum markets’. Asylum housing is, on the contrary, publicly funded social housing for refugees, or, as Barnsley council described it on their website "humanitarian housing for those fleeing persecution".</p> <p>The Tories’ racist ‘Go Home’ campaign against ‘illegal’ migrants may prove the last straw. Meena Patel of Southall Black Sisters <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/08/04/southall-black-sisters_n_3703139.html">describes the developing protests in London</a>: </p><blockquote><p>"People were reporting that people were being stopped on the pretext of checking travel tickets," she said. "It’s undermining people’s right to live here." </p></blockquote><p>There were echoes of the 1970s, said Patel: "We’re back on the streets, it looks like it. They were the days when we were fighting the state and its racist policies, people were on the streets, shoulder to shoulder – and it looks like we are back there."</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/6291641941_aabe5a67e2_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/536680/6291641941_aabe5a67e2_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Muslim couple, peace rally, Birmingham 2011 Adam Yosef / I Am Birmingham</span></span></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p><em>This essay is adapted from a </em><a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/the-shameful-go-home-campaign/"><em>longer piece</em></a><em> published by the Institute of Race Relations. 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Shine A Light John Grayson Fri, 06 Sep 2013 08:40:10 +0000 John Grayson 75007 at https://www.opendemocracy.net After Mubenga unlawful killing verdict: Could asylum seekers have a worse landlord than G4S? https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/after-mubenga-unlawful-killing-verdict-could-asylum-seekers-have-worse-land <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>• Inquest jury return unlawful killing verdict&nbsp;• Jimmy Mubenga died after 'restraint' by three G4S guards&nbsp;• G4S executives David Banks and Stephen Small gave flawed evidence to UK parliamentary committee about restraint techniques&nbsp;• Lately Stephen Small&nbsp;dismissed allegations about abuse of asylum seekers housed by G4S</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Today an inquest jury delivered a verdict of unlawful killing in the case of Jimmy Mubenga, who died on a deportation flight after being restrained by three G4S guards. Thanks to privatisation, some of the most vulnerable people in Britain have G4S as their landlord. Recently G4S executive Stephen Small was summoned to appear before the <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmhaff/uc71-iii/uc71.pdf">Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee</a> to answer questions about his company’s housing of asylum seekers in the north of England. </p> <p>Small showed his nerves. That's hardly surprising, for evidence he gave during a previous appearance has since been exposed as unreliable.</p> <p><strong><em>Unreliable evidence, 2 November 2010</em></strong></p> <p>Let's recall the moment. Small was managing director of G4S Detention and Escorting. It was 20 days after <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/jimmy-mubenga">Jimmy Mubenga</a> had died in his division's care after being restrained on a deportation flight. Small and his boss David Banks (head of G4S 'Care &amp; Justice') were rattled. The Home Office had just handed their contract to a cheaper contractor. <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmselect/cmhaff/uc563-i/563i.htm">"It came as a great shock,"</a> said Banks of the loss of the contract. Neither man expressed feelings about the death of their detainee.</p> <p>About the restraint techniques G4S used on people in their care, <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmhaff/563/563we07.htm">Small told the committee</a>: "we may hold their head up when they’re trying to put their head down, but we do not use any holds that involve pushing the head down towards their body." </p> <p>A few months later he was contradicted by whistleblower testimony <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/feb/08/g4s-deportees-lethal-risk-warning-mubenga">reported in the Guardian.</a> Managers had been repeatedly alerted that refused asylum seekers who became disruptive on flights were being "forced into submission" with their heads placed between their legs, the whistleblowers said. G4S guards called it jokingly "carpet karaoke". </p> <p>While Mubenga's widow and children grieved, Stephen Small got a promotion. Small, who had joined G4S in January 2010 direct from Rentokil (the pest control company) became G4S director, Immigration and Borders. </p> <p><strong><em>Unreliable evidence, 25 June 2013</em></strong></p> <p>Last Summer Small's G4S division landed part of what committee chair Keith Vaz called a ‘massive’ UK government contract for asylum housing. Small told the committee that G4S's slice was £30 million-a-year.</p> <p>Vaz asked Small about the Stockton mother and baby hostel whose residents have spoken of <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/g4s-jomast-stockton-hostel-and-the-mother-and-baby-market/">“living in cells"</a>. Vaz quoted from the <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2012/dec/14/asylum-seekers-contractors-mothers-housing">Guardian's interview</a> with one mother.</p> <p>She said “the whole floor has diarrhoea and” there “is vomiting” on the floor. “An ambulance comes to the building every week.” </p> <p>Vaz asked Small: "Do you recognise that description?"</p> <p>Small replied: "we do not recognise that description. In fact, after that article appeared . . . we had — unsolicited — a number of the residents in that building write to us to say themselves they did not recognise it. They did not recognise the description of the housing officers who attended it. So my answer is I do not recognise that description at all."</p> <p>I have visited the Stockton hostel several times. I have sat with and listened to Stockton residents. I can vouch that conditions are oppressive, unhealthy and totally unsuited to the early development of the thirty-eight babies and toddlers who are housed there.</p> <p>How much is this thirty-room hostel costing the taxpayer? Funding information disclosed to the committee suggests that we are paying around £22,000 per month in rent to G4S and its subcontractor Jomast.</p> <p>In February the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG) and a range of other asylum rights organisations, made a submission to the committee. We documented case study after case study of <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/homes-g4s-style-rubbish-rising-damp-and-roaches-8418089.html">appalling housing conditions</a>, and disrespect and abuse of asylum seekers in G4S publicly funded asylum housing.</p> <p>Committee members Julian Huppert and David Winnick made good use of the briefings and case studies in their interrogation of Stephen Small, and of Jeremy Stafford CEO of Serco for UK and Europe, who gave evidence alongside Small.</p> <p>David Winnick Labour MP for Walsall said: </p> <p>“I want to ask you whether you are aware of the complaints that are often made to us – be it as Members of Parliament or in evidence by those organisations that represent asylum seekers – that your organisations …are insensitive to asylum seekers?"</p> <p>The former pest control man replied: “We do recognise the vulnerability and the difficult time that an asylum seeker is going through at this point when they are in our care. We have a long history in G4S of working with vulnerable people . . . Many of the reports that have been published we do not recognise.”</p> <p>Mr Winnick: “You do not recognise?”</p> <p>Stephen Small: “Some of them have been completely unsubstantiated.”</p> <p><strong><em>G4S always knocks first</em></strong></p> <p>Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge asked Small about one woman "who was forced to stay nearly a month with her five month old baby in a Cascade property – I think that is a G4S one – in a house with wet rotten floors infested with cockroaches and slugs. . . The city council environmental health inspector described it as capable of becoming a category 1 hazard unfit for human habitation in its current condition, which strikes me as bad. I am sure that is not what you intend to provide and may well not even be a majority, but do you accept that there are cases where the accommodation simply is not appropriate for people? Do you accept that does happen?”</p> <p>Small replied: "we inherited a lot of the issues and we are addressing them quickly."</p> <p>Commercial contractors hold keys to asylum seekers' homes and commonly let themselves in, unannounced. </p> <p>MPs challenged both G4S and Serco on this. Huppert said: "May I just have it very clearly from you both that nobody should be entering properties unannounced except potentially in some sort of emergency?"</p> <p>Small gave a long and rambling response about making appointments, knocking on doors, ringing bells, then he said: "Where there is no answer after repeated attempts, we must and have the right to enter the property to ensure that it is still being inhabited by the asylum seeker."</p> <p><em>(Now there's</em> a phrase: "inhabited by the asylum seeker").</p> <p>Huppert said: "Again, you are describing a theory and if that were the case that would be good. What I cannot do is fit that with the comment, for example, from Sarah Teather, 'Almost every family told us that housing contractors routinely enter properties </p> <p>without knocking'." (Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather led the recent <a href="http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/news-views/press-release/woeful-asylum-support-pushes-children-and-families-destitution">Parliamentary inquiry into asylum support</a> for children and young people).</p> <p><strong><em>Contractors bid low to secure the business</em></strong></p> <p>Serco’s Jeremy Stafford let slip an astonishing revelation. He claimed that the Home Office contract paid Serco £11.71 for each single person in dispersed asylum housing each night, and £30.28 per night for each single asylum seeker in dispersal centres like Birley Court in Liverpool. Remarkably, he suggested that so far as Scotland and Northern Ireland were concerned, Serco handed on all but 21p per person per night to its main subcontractor, Orchard and Shipman. </p> <p>An astounded Keith Vaz said: “You are telling this committee that Serco makes 21p per asylum seeker?”</p> <p>Jeremy Stafford: “That is correct.”</p> <p>Later Vaz came back to the point: “At the moment Mr Stafford I am not sure what your shareholders are going to say, but 21p does not sound a huge amount of money for one of the biggest service providers in the world.” </p> <p>Stafford admitted what campaigners had long suspected, that the G4S and Serco bids were, in effect, ‘loss leaders’. Or, as Keith Vaz put it:</p> <p>“You obviously put in a bid that was quite low; that is why you got the contract.”</p> <p>Stafford explained that Serco was:</p> <p>“Very focused on building an accommodation business . . . we felt that we could establish a very good platform that we felt was scalable . . . some of the services that we develop in the United Kingdom we then go and take to other geographies . . . For us, we felt accommodation management was an important development area.’”</p> <p>In other words the outsourced and privatizing housing contracts would give the security companies experience in asylum markets as a way into asylum and mainstream housing markets in the UK and abroad. <br /> Is that it? <br /> Or are these contractors bidding low to win the business, and then working to fatten the margin by degrading the service? <br /> Or are they planning to sell the contracts on?<br /> Or are they just spinning us a line? And making their big money on the management fee?</p> <p>Stephen Small would not tell the committee how much G4S was being paid. He said it was complex, varying each night and in ‘bands’. He promised to send the information to the committee later. </p> <p><strong><em>It's all about subcontracting</em></strong></p> <p>Keith Vaz laid bare the nature of this privatisation: "Prior to the contract being given to yourselves and G4S and Reliance, </p> <p>this was being administered by a number of SMEs [small/medium sized enterprise] . . . The contract was then given to all three of you and you all have subcontracted. Your subcontractors, Mr Small, I think are Urban Housing, Target Housing, Jomast Ltd, Live Management Group, Cascade and Fentons."</p> <p>(Vaz underplays the scale of privatisation. Many of the previous contracts were coordinated and serviced by consortia of local councils. I'll be writing to the Home Affairs Committee to clarify this).</p> <p><br /> Turning to Serco's man, Vaz said: "We have a list that begins with Happy Homes Ltd all the way down to First Choice Homes, Cosmopolitan Housing. I can see about 20 or so </p> <p>subcontractors. So it is not really Serco that is providing this accommodation, is it? You have taken the contracts and then you have subcontracted it out to somebody else. In Serco’s case you do not have direct management of these places. You take a management fee, I would imagine."</p> <p>Vaz questioned Small on the crisis amongst G4S subcontractors that Small himself inadvertently exposed in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/another-g4s-scandal-are-uks-asylum-housing-subcontractors-falling-apart">a memo</a> that was leaked to the press. </p> <p>Chair “…you in your own memo of 25 February, which has got into the public domain, said the subcontractors were having to face 'property defects' and 'issues with the pastoral care offered to Service Users'. Was that your memo?”</p> <p>Stephen Small: “That was my memo.”</p> <p>Chair: “That is quite serious isn’t it?”</p> <p>Stephen Small: “It was, and the main issue they had Chair, was . . . that properties were not up to the standard that is required . . . and it required a huge amount of investment, time and energy, which Mantel as an SME were never structured to do.”</p> <p>Small outlined what G4S was doing about their subcontractors in the Midlands, East of England and South Yorkshire, after Mantel’s withdrawal and Live Management’s financial crisis.</p> <p>Stephen Small: "What we have done, Mr Chair is that we have now secured the properties . . . We have also transferred the staff that were delivering the frontline service for Mantel into G4S.” What Small did not mention is that by Monday 1 July G4S also aimed to complete the transfer of all Live Management front line staff to its direct employment.</p> <p>These changes make matters worse for asylum seeker tenants. Subcontractors’ workers have told us privately that the contracts had cut resources for housing management to a level where Mantel and Live Management could simply not afford to employ the skeleton staffs they had. </p> <p>Asylum seekers we have interviewed say they fear G4S and their staff appearing at their doors, managing their housing, because of their experience in the G4S ‘detention estate’. The Yorkshire and North East campaigns on G4S asylum housing began around the simple statement by a Zimbabwean asylum seeker tenant “I do not want a prison guard as my landlord." Stephen Small connects these fears as the G4S director called to answer to G4S’s role in Jimmy Mubenga’s death in 2010, and now the director of an asylum housing contract bringing misery to many of the 11,000 asylum seeker tenants they “support”.</p> <p>Despite the comprehensive exposure in Parliamentary hearings and reports Small still apparently has friends in high places. Throughout his grilling he repeatedly quoted support from the Home Office for his company’s hold on the contracts. A week before the hearings on 19 June Mark Harper, the Coalition Immigration minister, <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm130619/text/130619w0001.htm">in a written answer</a> to Labour MP Chris Ruane, a member of the Home Affairs Committee, placed the Coalition government squarely behind G4S: </p> <p>"G4S performance is satisfactory. Where shortfalls in performance have been identified the performance regime has been applied and improvement plans developed and implemented."</p> <p>Despite the spin and fabrications from G4S, Serco and their friends in high places, the skirmishes in the Home Affairs committee suggest that this is a battle that can be won.</p> <p>In solidarity with asylum seeker tenants, we can get rid of G4S, Serco and Capita/Clearel, and switch taxpayers' money for asylum housing back to local authorities, for them to coordinate housing associations and housing companies with decent housing, to provide real housing support for those waiting for their claims to asylum to be determined.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>See also:</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/lord-ramsbotham-attacks-perverse-decision-not-to-prosecute-g4s-over-mubeng">Lord Ramsbotham attacks 'perverse' decision not to prosecute G4S over Mubenga death</a>, By Clare Sambrook, 20 July 2012</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/lara-pawson/unlawful-killing-why-jimmy-mubengas-death-is-british-business">Unlawful killing: Why Jimmy Mubenga's death is British business</a>, By Lara Pawson, 9 July 2013</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/lord-ramsbotham-attacks-perverse-decision-not-to-prosecute-g4s-over-muben">Lord Ramsbotham attacks &#039;perverse&#039; decision not to prosecute G4S over Mubenga death</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/lara-pawson/unlawful-killing-why-jimmy-mubengas-death-is-british-business">Unlawful killing: Why Jimmy Mubenga&#039;s death is British business</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/g4s-and-their-human-rights-problem">G4S and their human rights problem</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/another-g4s-scandal-uks-privatised-asylum-housing-market-is-falling-apart">Another G4S scandal: UK&#039;s privatised asylum housing market is falling apart</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-asylum-housing-fiasco-descends-into-farce">G4S asylum-housing fiasco descends into farce</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/their-secret-is-out-but-for-g4s-and-friends-abject-disregard-for-human-dign">Their secret is out, but for G4S and friends ‘abject disregard&#039; for human dignity persists</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Prisons & child prisoners Shine A Light John Grayson Tue, 09 Jul 2013 12:46:02 +0000 John Grayson 73908 at https://www.opendemocracy.net G4S asylum-housing fiasco descends into farce https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-asylum-housing-fiasco-descends-into-farce <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Things aren't going well in the&nbsp;UK's new&nbsp;asylum housing 'market' that is dominated by the world's biggest security company. Now&nbsp;G4S threatens to evict&nbsp;an asylum-seeker because G4S has failed to pay her rent. Are public services safe in its hands?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On the 4th of May, Angela (not her real name) opened a letter from her landlord which revealed that there were massive rent arrears on her home. Angela is an asylum seeker who lives with her 11 month old son. The letter said that there was £1634 owed in rent. This is true. But it's not her fault. Angela’s rent is, or should be, paid for her by a housing company called Cascade Homes. Cascade is supposed to pay the rent to the landlord’s letting agent, Whitegates. Cascade then should claim the money back from G4S, the world’s biggest security company. </p> <p>Regular readers may recall that G4S won a government contract last year to house asylum seekers in Yorkshire. I have followed this story closely. I am an activist and researcher and I work alongside asylum seeker tenants in Yorkshire and the North East. Over the months together we have revealed how companies to whom G4S <a href="http://www.g4s.com/en-GB/United%20Kingdom/What%20we%20do/Services/Care%20and%20justice%20services/Immigration%20and%20Borders/COMPASS/">subcontracts the work</a> have repeatedly failed to provide housing fit for human habitation, how their staff have been <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/their-secret-is-out-but-for-g4s-and-friends-%E2%80%98abject-disregard-for-human-dign">accused of harassing vulnerable tenants</a>.</p> <p>With arrears of this scale, not surprisingly the landlord wanted payment or repossession of the property. G4S’s answer was not to pay the debt and continue the tenancy. Instead G4S harassed Angela into moving for the fourth time in a few months, leaving mother and infant son bereft of their medical and support networks. </p> <p>Angela had been moved to this new Cascade address under the supervision of Leeds City Council in December after experiencing <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/cockroach-in-baby%E2%80%99s-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s">Leeds Cascade Housing properties. </a>She had spent a horrific month in a damp, filthy property infested with cockroaches. Under the asylum rules she had no choice but to stay there, but Angela spoke out and forced G4S and Cascade to move her to a decent property in a neighbourhood where she could keep her links to her church and support networks. </p> <p>Even in her new property the harassment went on. Male housing workers arrived unannounced demanding to be let in. As recently as 26 April a Cascade worker simply let himself in without any prior arrangement when Angela was out.</p> <p>Then on Wednesday 1 May Angela got a phone call from a G4S/Cascade male employee who said he was Duncan Wells: he told her that she must move immediately to an address in Pudsey miles away from her present neighbourhood. Wells said he would come to see her on Tuesday 7 May when he would bring ID and take Angela to the new address so that she could see the property.</p> <p>This was deeply distressing news for Angela. The new address was miles away from her church, support services and a childcare centre she had just arranged for her infant son. </p> <p>Duncan Wells is the ‘Social cohesion manager’ of G4S for asylum housing in Yorkshire and the North East and should be well aware of grave criticisms in Parliament of the threats to the privacy of asylum seekers in their homes. A Parliamentary inquiry into these matters, led by Sarah Teather MP and supported by the Children's Society, <a href="http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/news-views/press-release/woeful-asylum-support-pushes-children-and-families-destitution">reported in January</a>. During a House of Commons <a href="http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?gid=2013-02-27b.73.2">debate on the inquiry</a>, on 27 February, Teather said:</p><blockquote><p><em>"Almost every family told us that housing contractors routinely enter properties without knocking. We heard not just from one family, but from all of them independently that people just turn up and use keys to let themselves in. . . . It causes terror for children, and is an epithet for the lack of respect with which they are treated. They are treated as luggage rather than people who deserve some dignity and respect. The Government must get to grips with that with housing contractors."</em></p></blockquote> <p>Wells told Angela that she had to move because "the landlord wanted the house back". Angela discovered that this wasn't the whole story when she opened the letter left by her landlord listing the arrears on the house. When, in a meeting with Wells, Cascade housing workers and local campaigners Angela disclosed the letter, Cascade at first tried to deny the arrears. Later, they had to own up to the truth, which was more embarrassing still. There had actually been £1000 arrears on the property and a repossession threat <em>before</em> Cascade moved Angela in.</p> <p>The worry and distress went on and on. The landlord still wanted the property back. Contractors arrived to start work in preparation for a new tenant. Angela had relentless knocks on the door and calls for her to leave the property, and still not even a written notice to move from Cascade.</p> <p>Nine days after the phone call, a Cascade worker arrived with a letter giving Angela and her son seven days notice to move and promising a decent house, close enough to enable her to stay connected to her medical and other support networks. On Monday 13 May, twelve days after the phone call from Duncan Wells, and after twelve days of distress and harassment Angela was offered a property which she has seen and accepted, and she will move in there on Thursday 16 May. </p> <p>G4S had no experience of housing management when it was given a slice of the national asylum housing £620m contracts in June 2012. The private security company had of course a stake in other parts of the ‘asylum market’ with a rocky human rights record in managing immigration detention centres and deportation escort services. <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/jimmy-mubenga">Jimmy Mubenga</a>, an Angolan father of five, died after being "restrained" by G4S escort staff during an attempt to deport him in 2010.</p> <p>In Yorkshire and the North East, G4S's worrying reputation motivated resistance from asylum tenants and their willingness to speak out about appalling conditions. <a href="http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?gid=2013-02-27b.84.4">Chris Bryant MP, shadow Minister for Immigration</a>, speaking in February's debate, referred to "hideous conditions" in asylum housing. Last year a Zimbabwean asylum seeker in Sheffield said —&nbsp; "I do not want a prison guard as my landlord".</p> <p>The Home Office, with its 2012 privatized asylum housing contracts, has produced cut price contracts for slum housing based on a "new delivery model" which is hopelessly inefficient. The model is based on three or (as in the Leeds case) four tiers of landlords, each one slicing off a share of the profits. In Leeds and West Yorkshire, G4S is in overall charge, with actual housing provision subcontracted to Cascade Housing. </p><p>A few of Cascade's 700 West Yorkshire asylum housing properties are owned directly by the company. Most are subcontracted from very small private landlords. In Angela’s case Cascade used a lettings agency to rent the property from a small landlord. This added yet another layer of complication and cost and stretched even further the distance between Angela and the state which owes her a duty of care.</p> <p>Within this ‘flexible’ delivery model the real losers are asylum seekers and their families. G4S and its subcontractors like Cascade have simply failed to find decent properties for asylum seekers. G4S’s own figures released in February suggest that in Yorkshire up to 300 asylum seekers have been placed in ‘no choice’ housing which is unfit, and breaches their contract with the Home Office.</p> <p>After the conditions in Leeds asylum housing were exposed by asylum seekers and campaigners in December 2012 the Home Office suspended Cascade from the contract by refusing to disperse new asylum seekers to their properties. A <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/another-g4s-scandal-uks-privatised-asylum-housing-market-is-falling-apart">G4S letter leaked to campaigners in March</a> suggested that Cascade was in real difficulties delivering the contract following the withdrawal of G4S subcontractor Mantel in the West Midlands. Cascade Housing’s credit rating from <a href="http://www.192.com/">www.192.com</a> fell from 49 (credit worthy) in September 2012 to 5 (caution – credit at your discretion, one category above liquidation) on 1 May 2013. Cascade is not paying its bills and its asylum seeker tenants are being put at risk of harm.</p> <p>Angela’s case also raises issues about the costings and payments to G4S. If Cascade had paid off the rent arrears for Angela’s home it would have been a payment of £475 per calendar month around £15.61 per night for mother and small child. </p> <p>How much income have G4S and Cascade received from public funds for Angela's home whilst refusing to pay the lettings agent and the landlord? Let's make an estimate.</p> <p>Payment for dispersal asylum housing has for many years been on a ‘nightly’ basis. <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/another-g4s-blunder-councils-attack-security-giant-after-housing-contract-shambles-leaves-families-living-in-squalor-8329407.html">In 2011 Leeds Council was part of a consortium</a> that bid £12 to £13 per person per night – losing out to a G4S bid that was reported as between £6 and £12. Cascade may have been losing money on Angela’s house – hence their reluctance to pay.</p> <p>The G4S asylum housing contracts in Yorkshire and the North East have descended into chaos and farce. The real losers are vulnerable asylum seekers like Angela, harrassed and abused by housing companies, and constantly uprooted and moved by the Home Office and G4S.</p> <p>The other losers are of course taxpayers who provide public funds for G4S to wreck the everyday lives of mothers like Angela. The Parliamentary Home Affairs committee<a title="http://migrantsrights.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=d9e512af0e78ae1205ef2bef5&amp;id=6a7b7605cd&amp;e=b764182dad" href="http://migrantsrights.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=d9e512af0e78ae1205ef2bef5&amp;id=6a7b7605cd&amp;e=b764182dad"> inquiry into asylum support </a>is due to hear evidence on the G4S asylum housing contracts in the near future. Having observed this unfolding disaster, and having worked with others to try to protect vulnerable people from its harmful effects,&nbsp; I urge the Committee to recommend that the G4S asylum housing contracts (and the Serco and Clearel contracts in other areas) should be cancelled and transferred to not-for-profit providers in the housing association and voluntary housing sectors.</p> <p>Very few articles I have researched and written over the past year or so have had happy outcomes. As I completed this one, Angela rang to say another letter had arrived. This time a letter to say that she had been granted right to remain – a refugee now, not an asylum seeker.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/another-g4s-scandal-uks-privatised-asylum-housing-market-is-falling-apart">Another G4S scandal: UK&#039;s privatised asylum housing market is falling apart</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/their-secret-is-out-but-for-g4s-and-friends-abject-disregard-for-human-dign">Their secret is out, but for G4S and friends ‘abject disregard&#039; for human dignity persists</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/cockroach-in-baby-s-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s">A cockroach in the baby’s bottle: asylum-seeker housing by security giant G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/forced-evictions-racist-attacks-meet-new-landlord-security-company-g4s">Forced evictions, racist attacks. Meet the new landlord, security company G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-and-friends-exploit-mother-and-baby-market">G4S and friends exploit the mother and baby market </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/another-shambles-as-g4s-is-entrusted-with-running-asylum-seeker-housing">Another shambles as G4S is entrusted with running asylum seeker housing </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Shine A Light John Grayson Wed, 15 May 2013 07:15:21 +0000 John Grayson 72684 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Their secret is out, but for G4S and friends ‘abject disregard' for human dignity persists https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/their-secret-is-out-but-for-g4s-and-friends-abject-disregard-for-human-dign <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Landlords get richer. Women are harassed in their homes. The UK Border Agency's contractor G4S is using subcontractors who are not up to the task. The newly privatised market in asylum housing is a shambles and a warning.</p> </div> </div> </div> <blockquote><p><em>“Almost every family told us that housing contractors routinely enter properties without knocking. We heard not just from one family, but from all of them independently that people just turn up and use keys to let themselves in. People may be in the shower and if they are Muslim women they may not have adequate head covering. It causes terror for children, and is an epithet for the lack of respect with which they are treated. They are treated as luggage rather than people who deserve some dignity and respect. The Government must get to grips with that with housing contractors.”</em></p></blockquote> <p>That was Sarah Teather MP <a href="http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?gid=2013-02-27b.73.2">speaking in Parliament</a> on 27 February. Teather chaired a <a href="http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/news-views/press-release/woeful-asylum-support-pushes-children-and-families-destitution">Parliamentary inquiry into asylum support</a> for children and young people whose most shocking finding, she said, was the “abject disregard for basic human dignity demonstrated by housing providers”.</p> <p>I have witnessed that abject disregard and seen for myself the awful damage it does to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.</p> <p>Asylum housing is provided by the UK Border Agency for people awaiting outcomes of asylum claims —&nbsp;vulnerable, often traumatised adults and children who have no choice about where they live.&nbsp;In the past UK Border Agency housing contracts were held by local authorities, housing associations and private landlords.&nbsp;But in &nbsp;2012 the UK Border Agency created a new “asylum market” by awarding £620 million worth of contracts for asylum housing to three companies: Serco, Reliance and the world’s largest security company G4S.&nbsp;</p><p>To learn that G4S is the new landlord can strike fear into asylum families. Many have already experienced G4S, having been transported in its vans or&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/clare-sambrook/uk-border-agencys-long-punitive-campaign-against-children-helped-by-g4s-an">locked up in its detention centres</a>. Many more know its reputation —&nbsp;they’ve heard of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/jimmy-mubenga">Jimmy Mubenga</a>, the Angolan man killed under “restraint” by G4S security guards in 2010.</p><div>Throughout 2012 the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG) and a network of campaigners, academics and asylum seeker tenants have documented the disastrous effects of the G4S asylum contracts in Yorkshire on asylum seekers and their families.</div><p>In Yorkshire almost half the 2000 asylum seekers in many towns were in council or council-contracted accommodation in 2012 and 881 were forced to move by G4S into poorer quality private rented sector accommodation. This “Transition” process between June and December 2012 was chaotic and a disaster for asylum seeker housing in Yorkshire and the North East. Campaigners have compiled a <a href="http://www.symaag.org.uk/">dossier of evidence</a>, including many personal case studies, and sent it to the Independent Chief Inspector for Border and Immigration and to the Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee, supported by a number of national, regional and local asylum rights organisations. Both these bodies are planning investigations into Asylum and asylum support in the near future. Campaigners and asylum rights organisations are calling for G4S to lose its asylum housing contracts.</p><p><strong><em>G4S inspected by. . . G4S</em></strong></p> <p>In the grand surroundings of Leeds Civic Hall on 18 February G4S director Stephen Small launched a series of G4S “Roadshows”. These PR meetings throughout the asylum housing contract areas are aimed at keeping the profitable contracts for G4S, in the face of a barrage of what Small described as inaccurate “media stories”. G4S owned up to a “few bad cases” of poor quality housing and assured us that inspections were being carried out —&nbsp;by their very own G4S Assessments. From their random sample of 366 properties in Yorkshire and the North East G4S found that 18 per cent of properties in South and West Yorkshire allocated to asylum seekers were unfit. If these figures hold for all Yorkshire properties run by G4S and their subcontractors Cascade and Live Management Group, then perhaps 300 asylum seekers and their families are living in unfit properties. </p> <p>What’s especially alarming is that the neglect and suffering go on, regardless of public and Parliamentary exposure. During the Parliamentary debate in February,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?gid=2013-02-27b.84.4">Chris Bryant MP, shadow Minister for Immigration</a> spoke of:</p> <blockquote><p>“<em>The hideous conditions in which many people live. We need to do far more in this country to crack down on unscrupulous and poor landlords, who put people into housing that, frankly, is not fit for living. It has been a disgrace that successive Governments have not concentrated enough on that.”</em></p></blockquote> <p>In public, the UK Border Agency supports the G4S record on asylum housing but in fact in West Yorkshire (including Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield), no new asylum seekers have been moved into housing run by G4S and its subcontractor Cascade for the past three months.</p><p><strong><em>Women harassed, complainers punished</em></strong></p> <p>On 25 February the Maternity Alliance and the Refugee Council published a Report documenting how the UK Border Agency’s asylum housing policy <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/feb/25/pregnant-asylum-seekers-dispersal">&nbsp;"puts pregnant asylum seekers at risk"&nbsp;</a>. In Rotherham in August 2012 contractor Target Housing, chosen by G4S to house “service users with complex special needs”,* evicted <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/g4s-contractor-evicted-heavily-pregnant-asylum-seeker-even-though-they-knew-she-was-being-induced-the-same-day-8399581.html">a pregnant asylum seeker</a> on the day she was to be induced. Another woman,&nbsp;Catherine Tshezi, said:&nbsp;“A couple of days before I gave birth, that's when my support was terminated. I was induced not knowing where I would live when I came out." When Catherine's baby was only 15 days old, they were moved into&nbsp;G4S’s controversial mother and baby hostel in Stockton, a place where Catherine had no friends, support or contacts. Catherine has&nbsp;<a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2012/dec/14/asylum-seekers-contractors-mothers-housing">described</a>&nbsp;being moved as a “total displacement”.</p> <p>During last month's Parliamentary debate <a href="http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?gid=2013-02-27b.79.2">Mark Durkan MP</a> said of asylum housing: </p><blockquote><p><em>“As well as that being restricted and unsuitable living, it can lead to intrusive situations—officials can just arrive and appear in the properties where people are living. That can lead to situations that are totally inappropriate in the context of family life. Families</em> <em>should not have to deal with that.”</em></p></blockquote> <p>Such intrusions can become harassment, even hate crimes, but where asylum seeker tenants complain of racial or sexual harassment to G4S contractor Cascade Housing they face an inadequate response. G4S and Cascade Homes Group Limited issue “mutual” <a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/128889753/G4S-Asylum-Seeker-Contract?secret_password=2e6nb21mhrey3dbr62">tenancy agreements</a>, and seek to keep complaints of racial and sexual harassment restricted to housing officers or managers and investigated internally by G4S and Cascade. There is no mention of reporting criminal behaviour to the police. Cascade at the end of February had 700 properties across West Yorkshire and no frontline women housing officers.</p> <p>Thus in the midst of the current legal climate encouraging victims of sexual violence and harassment to come forward and for them to be taken seriously, G4S and the UK Border Agency want to keep things in-house. And that’s especially worrying in light of the Border Agency’s <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2013/mar/08/sexual-abuse-asylum-seekers">long-standing and routine dismissal of asylum seekers' allegations of rape.</a></p> <p>Women asylum seekers who have complained publicly over the last year about the G4S contracts in Yorkshire and the North East have been subsequently harassed by male staff visiting unannounced. “<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/another-g4s-blunder-councils-attack-security-giant-after-housing-contract-shambles--leaves-families-living-in-squalor-8329407.html">Ruth</a>” and “<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/homes-g4s-style-rubbish-rising-damp-and-roaches-8418089.html">Angela</a>” who spoke out about the terrible conditions in their Leeds housing were then relentlessly visited and harassed by G4S / Cascade staff backed up in the case of Ruth by UK Border Agency warnings.&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em>Mayhem predictable</em></strong></p> <p>A brief reflection on recent history might have warned the UK Border Agency of the chaos that would follow its privatisation of asylum housing. <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/aug/03/immigration.immigrationandpublicservices1">A Guardian investigation</a> in 2005 into the Angel Group’s 800 properties in Yorkshire and the North East exposed conditions remarkably similar to those found in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/cockroach-in-baby%E2%80%99s-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s">Leeds Cascade Housing properties in 2012.</a></p> <p>Back in 2005, one young woman living on a bleak Leeds housing estate told The Guardian: “It was filthy. My partner took one look at it and wanted to leave. It took me two days to clean all the grease off the cooker.” </p> <p>In another dwelling, with a pile of rubble outside, was a 26-year-old pregnant asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The front room carpet was covered in dark stains. "How am I to bring a child into this place?" she said. "They won't even give me a washing machine." </p> <p>The Guardian noted: </p><blockquote><p>“Home Office contracts have been enormously lucrative for the private sector.”&nbsp;&nbsp; </p></blockquote> <p>The Angel property group started as an asylum housing contractor with single asylum seekers in Kent in 1999. When Angel sold <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/lorna-gledhill/bad-management-and-broken-promises-asylum-housing-gets-g4s-olympic-experie">Angel Lodge in Wakefield</a> in the summer of 2012 to Citrus Group and G4S to reuse as the Initial Accommodation dispersal centre for Yorkshire and the North East, Angel was worth £64.4 million. Angel owner Julia Davey was, according to the 2011 Sunday Times Rich List, worth £131 million (£80 million in business assets and £51 million in property and personal wealth).</p> <p>Housing companies abusing asylum seekers and making a mockery of the asylum housing contracts were exposed by a Daily Mail investigation in 2010 into what it then described as “<a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1339814/Firms-claimed-millions-Home-Office-house-asylum-seekers-gone-missing.html#ixzzly90Akguo">a little-known industry</a>”.</p> <p><strong><em>Tenants' misery, landlords' gain</em></strong></p><p>Asylum housing is still a profitable market. Serco, “the company that runs Britain” according to the Daily Telegraph, holds the new asylum housing contracts for the North West and Scotland in its gigantic UK government outsourcing portfolio. Serco has just announced a rise in pre-tax profits of 27 per cent to £302 million.</p> <p>Capita, another big beneficiary of public outsourcing, and <a href="http://corporatewatch.org/?lid=4644">an important new player in asylum markets</a>, last summer bought Reliance Secure Task Management. Reliance and Clearsprings had the asylum housing contracts for London, the South West and Wales as part of Clearel Ltd. After the sale the Clearel Company became Clearsprings Ready Homes in December 2012. Capita paid £20 million to Reliance’s owner Brian Kingham for his interests in deportation escort services, inherited from G4S, as well as Reliance’s security and asylum housing interests.</p> <p>On the executive merry-go-round James Vyvyan-Robinson, managing director of Clearsprings has been &nbsp;director of business development for Group4Securicor and a director of Reliance Secure Task Management Ltd. The new accommodation manager of G4S's Home Office contracts is Juliette Halstead who worked for UPM who were dumped by G4S in June 2012; Juliette previously worked for Clearsprings. Gino Toro, CEO of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/outsourcing-charity-%E2%80%93-g4s-way">Target Housing Association</a>, moved on in November to become G4S Social Cohesion Manager in the Midlands. Jules Bickers, the G4S main accommodation director, moved on in October to share his experience as adviser and researcher for the privatising London borough of Barnet. </p> <p>In the North East the G4S subcontractor <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/g4s-jomast-stockton-hostel-and-the-mother-and-baby-market/">Jomast Developments</a>, headed by multi-millionaire Stuart Monks, displaced Clearsprings as the sole private contractor in 2010. In the East of England G4S contracted Live Management Group to transfer Clearsprings properties to the new contracts. </p> <p>G4S has subcontracted Urban Housing Services, part of the Citrus Group, to run Angel Lodge and the Midlands dispersal centre at Edgbaston in Birmingham. Citrus also remarkably runs much better quality and much more welcoming official “absorption centres” for the Israeli government. Citrus is no stranger to privatisation disasters and their effects on vulnerable people. In 2010 the <a href="http://www.gmb.org.uk/newsroom/other_news/private_equity_care_home_probe.aspx">GMB union exposed</a> the fact that the Citrus Group had bought the freehold of a number of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-14102750">Southern Cross care homes</a> with a US private equity company. Citrus companies were receiving an annual ‘rent’ for each elderly person’s bed of £6300 a year. When Southern Cross collapsed in 2011 it left an astonishing multi-billion pound debt and 752 care homes with 31,000 elderly people affected. Citrus moved on and has recently announced it has relet its care homes to another national provider. GMB also revealed that the extensive Citrus group has only one named shareholder one Anton David Curtis.</p> <p>To misquote JK Galbraith, the G4S asylum housing contracts are creating a great deal of “Private Affluence for contractors and Public Squalor for asylum seeker tenants”. It is time for G4S to go. </p> <p>Isn’t it also time to challenge the morality and politics of governments using our tax money to create markets for companies and millionaires to buy and sell asylum homes and hostels, care homes for the elderly, childrens prisons, and community homes for children “in care”? The <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/winterbourne-view-scandal-call-for-new-care-home-neglect-law-8230862.html">Winterbourne View scandal</a>,&nbsp;that gross abuse of the most vulnerable of learning disabled people, demonstrates the dangers of marketising and outsourcing ‘care’ to private companies. Care is surely the most basic of government functions and a responsibility for all of us. It is a chilling thought that a profit machine called “G4S Care and Justice” exploits vulnerable asylum seekers’ housing and other “care markets” paid for by all of us.</p><hr /><p><strong><em>References:</em></strong></p><p>* In Rotherham in August 2012 contractor Target Housing, chosen by G4S to house “service users with complex special needs”: quoted from &nbsp;COMPASS G4S Draft Service Delivery Plan 0.1.1. (Draft) 16 May 2012 p.44</p><p>The cross party&nbsp;<a href="http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-we-do/policy-and-lobbying/parliamentary-work/parliamentary-inquiry-asylum-support-children-an-1">Parliamentary Inquiry into Asylum Support for Children and Young People</a>, published its report (<a href="http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/tcs/asylum_support_inquiry_report_executive_summary_final.pdf">summary</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/tcs/asylum_support_inquiry_report_final.pdf">full text</a>) in January 2013. The panel, chaired by former children’s minister Sarah Teather MP, comprised Neil Carmichael MP, Caroline Dinenage MP, Nic Dakin MP, Virendra Sharma MP, Lord Avebury, Baroness Lister, the Rt. Reverend John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, Nadine Finch, Children’s Rights Barrister, Garden Court Chambers and Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Acknowledgement:&nbsp;</em><em>Thanks to Clare Sambrook</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/cockroach-in-baby-s-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s">A cockroach in the baby’s bottle: asylum-seeker housing by security giant G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/forced-evictions-racist-attacks-meet-new-landlord-security-company-g4s">Forced evictions, racist attacks. Meet the new landlord, security company G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-and-friends-exploit-mother-and-baby-market">G4S and friends exploit the mother and baby market </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/another-shambles-as-g4s-is-entrusted-with-running-asylum-seeker-housing">Another shambles as G4S is entrusted with running asylum seeker housing </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/yorkshire-campaigners-claim-small-victory-over-world-s-biggest-security-com">Yorkshire campaigners claim small victory over world’s biggest security company G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-asylum-housing-evictions-begin-mother-and-baby-dumped-in-substandard-fl">G4S asylum housing, the evictions begin: mother and baby dumped in substandard flat</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/mobilising-outrage-campaigning-with-asylum-seekers-against-security-industr">Mobilising Outrage: campaigning with asylum seekers against security industry giant, G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-turns-profit-in-asylum-markets-whos-speaking-out-and-whose-lips-are-sea">G4S turns a profit in “asylum markets”: who&#039;s speaking out and whose lips are sealed?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/asylum-seeker-housing-managed-by-for-profit-prison-guards-why-not">Asylum seeker housing managed by for-profit prison guards? Why not</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/clare-sambrook/lord-ramsbotham-attacks-perverse-decision-not-to-prosecute-g4s-over-muben">Lord Ramsbotham attacks &#039;perverse&#039; decision not to prosecute G4S over Mubenga death</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Prisons & child prisoners Immigration detention and removal in the UK Shine A Light John Grayson Mon, 18 Mar 2013 14:14:10 +0000 John Grayson 71619 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A cockroach in the baby’s bottle: asylum-seeker housing by security giant G4S https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/cockroach-in-baby-s-bottle-asylum-seeker-housing-by-security-giant-g4s <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Angela and her baby are among thousands of vulnerable people being forcibly re-housed as the UK government converts asylum-seeker housing into a profitable business.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On 16 November, Angela (not her real name) and her five-month-old baby son moved house. It wasn&rsquo;t a happy occasion. They hadn&rsquo;t chosen to move at all. For Angela and her baby are among thousands of vulnerable people being forcibly rehoused as the UK government turns asylum-seeker housing into a profitable business. Angela and her new baby had been settled in their home in a council flat in Leeds where Angela was getting support in the neighbourhood through her local church. But earlier this year the UK government decided to outsource the care of Angela and her baby to security giant G4S and its subcontractors, Leeds-based Cascade Homes Ltd.</p> <p>When Cascade&rsquo;s van, bearing Angela and her baby and all their worldly goods, drew up at their new home, they saw a rundown prison house. Iron cage grills covered the street level windows. </p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Front%20of%20house%20small.jpg" alt="" width="100%" /><br /><span class="image-caption"> </span><em>The front of the house. Image: John Grayson</em></p><p> Inside the slum property mother and baby were greeted with the stench of rotten damp floors,&nbsp;the smell of cockroach infestation, damp walls and slugs. Filth. </p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/The%20bathroom%20floor%20small.jpg" alt="" width="100%" /><br /><span class="image-caption"> </span><em>The bathroom floor. Image: John Grayson</em></p><p> G4S claim that all its subcontractors including Cascade inspect properties carefully before moving in asylum seeker families. This house had not been inspected, in fact it had been empty for some time there were (and are) iron defensive cage grills on the street level window and on both back and front doors. The upstairs windows are also security locked and cannot be opened fully. These seem to have been measures taken to stop squatting or burglary. They would impede escape in the event of a fire or some other emergency.</p> <p>Although the UK Border Agency and G4S offer only &lsquo;no choice&rsquo; properties to asylum seekers, Angela refused to accept the house. The Cascade team then took her and her baby and belongings to another Cascade property. They did not say where they were going or tell Angela the new address.</p> <p>Angela found this property even worse than the one before, with a filthy bathroom and kitchen and mould everywhere. </p><p> <img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/mould%20small.jpg" alt="" width="100%" /><br /><span class="image-caption"> </span><em>The bathroom in the second house. Image: John Grayson</em></p><p>Again Angela refused to accept the property. The Cascade workers tried to forcibly prevent Angela and her baby leaving the property and neighbours intervened in the fracas. Cascade then took Angela back to the first Cascade property in a car. It was six hours before her possessions arrived &mdash; they included baby milk and nappies and other essentials for her five-month-old baby. Cascade said they would move her again.</p> <p>Cascade, before they signed up with G4S, were a small landlord company who had in the past provided a few properties to previous asylum housing contracts. They now provide asylum housing throughout West Yorkshire on behalf of G4S. Cascade, pushed by G4S, are desperately signing up properties from other small landlords in Leeds, Bradford, Halifax and Huddersfield &ndash; many of them, particularly in Leeds, are from the slum housing market.</p> <p><strong>Dumped in a dangerous slum</strong></p> <p>For four days Angela complained to Cascade about the filthy conditions and the hazards they posed to her baby&rsquo;s health. The back yard was piled with rubbish&nbsp;and the furniture supplied was poor &ndash; there was a spring sticking out of the mattress on Angela&rsquo;s bed. The place was infested with cockroaches and slugs. She did not dare put her baby on the floor.</p><p> <img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/rubbish%20outside%20of%20flat%20small.jpg" alt="" width="100%" /><br /><span class="image-caption"> </span><em>Rubbish outside on Angela's first night. Image: John Grayson</em></p> <p>Then Angela found a cockroach in the baby&rsquo;s bottle. In desperation she rang agencies that had supported her in the past &ndash; <a href="http://www.solace-uk.org.uk/">Solace</a>, a counselling service for survivors of exile and persecution, and the <a href="http://www.helenbamber.org/">Helen Bamber Foundation</a>, which supports survivors of cruelty. These organisations got some action from Cascade: workmen laid lino floor covering to hide the rotten damaged floor in the kitchen, by the back door and in the bathroom upstairs &ndash; and a pest control man appeared. </p> <p>I was alerted to Angela&rsquo;s situation by an asylum seeker active in the notog4syorkshire campaign who had supported Angela. She took me to the house. Although I teach housing studies in a university, and was a councillor and chair of housing in the past, I have never experienced a house in such poor condition, nor such a horrible infestation of cockroaches and slugs.</p> <p>When I visited on the 6 December I lifted the covering in the bathroom and photographed very wet rotten floorboards. The flooring upstairs was very spongy and, I suspected, unsafe.&nbsp; Nothing had been done about extensive damp patches.</p> <p>Cascade had sent a pest control contractor who drilled into woodwork and laid traps for the cockroaches. This was around the 20 November. The pest control firm had returned to empty traps a few days before I was there but there were new cockroaches in the traps on the 6 December. One trap had a cockroach in it and it was sited inches away from the baby&rsquo;s cot.</p> <p>Angela said that the pest control man had warned that it might be another two or three weeks before the infestation was under control. Around the house there was dirty damp exposed pipe work from which cockroaches and slugs appeared at night. I saw a dead cockroach on the kitchen floor.</p><p> <img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/cockroach%20small.jpg" alt="" width="100%" /><br /><span class="image-caption"> </span><em>Cockroach traps in living room / kitchsn. Image: John Grayson</em></p><p>It had been three weeks since Cascade had dumped Angela and her baby son in the property when I saw her and there had been no action to move her.</p> <p>Angela&rsquo;s property was in the heart of a predominantly Asian area of Chapeltown / Harehills. Angela is African and she had regularly suffered noisy racial harassment at night with people banging on the window grills. The UKBA contract with G4S specifically bans allocating asylum seekers to &lsquo;vulnerable premises&rsquo; in high crime areas where racial incidents are likely.</p> <p><strong>Asylum seekers are invisible to local services</strong></p> <p>I feared for the health and safety of both Angela and her baby son. I contacted Leeds City Council to try to trigger an alert for the safety of the baby. The social worker I spoke to was negative and unhelpful and spoke of &ldquo;mother&rsquo;s responsibilty&rdquo; and &ldquo;landlord&rsquo;s responsibilities&rdquo; &ndash; not a Children&rsquo;s Services&rsquo; responsibility, for the child at risk. When I pointed out that in a similar case involving an asylum seeker and her at-risk baby, Doncaster Children&rsquo;s Services had immediately responded to a housing case, the Leeds social worker simply said different local authorities had different policies. When I handed the phone to Angela he advised that she contact Environmental Health about the property.</p> <p>When I assisted Angela in contacting the Environmental Health Department the two council officers who responded were even more negative about the plight of mother and baby. The officers were adamant that they would not even accept an alert or case from an asylum seeker direct. They would only respond if contacted by a UKBA case owner officer (the civil servant who holds case files for asylum seekers).</p> <p><strong>Rights and &lsquo;no choice asylum support&rsquo;</strong></p> <p>Angela was angry and adamant throughout that G4S and Cascade and now the Council shoud not treat asylum seekers in this way. &ldquo;We are human beings&rsquo; she said, &ldquo;we have a right to be treated as human beings. Other people have some choice in housing, why not asylum seekers?&rdquo;</p> <p>Angela defied the image of &lsquo;asylum seeker as victim&rsquo; she had tried to mobilise her own networks of support and fellow asylum seekers. I set about mobilising what I thought would be useful solidarity networks to challenge G4S and Cascade.</p> <p>I sent G4S (who had full contractual responsibility for Cascade&rsquo;s action) an angry and detailed protest about the case.</p><p>G4S's chief property inspector was dispatched to Angela&rsquo;s house on Tuesday 11 December. The civil servants and case owners at the UKBA who had processed the protest complaint on Friday 7 December were obviously appalled at the situation with their asylum housing contract holders, and sent in their property inspector even earlier on Monday 10 December.</p> <p>Leeds city ward councillors and senior Labour group members (Leeds is a Labour controlled city) were contacted over the weekend and they ensured the first team into the property were the city council Environmental Health officers on Monday morning. They, unsurprisingly, told Angela that the house was unfit to live in. The notog4syorkshire network in Leeds and other areas of Yorkshire offered support and detailed data on background to the use of slum properties in Leeds by landlords like Cascade. The pressure was building and we managed to brief a solicitor from Irwin Fletcher who interviewed Angela.</p> <p>A reporter from The Independent showed interest in the case and she began to research a story (now published, <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/homes-g4s-style-rubbish-rising-damp-and-roaches-8418089.html">here</a>). The new Leeds anti-racist <em>David Oluwale News Paper</em> offered to carry the story. Angela&rsquo;s case was submitted on 7 December as part of the written evidence of <a href="http://www.symaag.org.uk/">South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG)</a> to the Children&rsquo;s Society Parliamentary Enquiry on asylum support for children and young people.</p> <p>The sordid practices of G4S and their subcontractors had been exposed, an asylum seeker had been willing to &lsquo;go public&rsquo; on the reality of the G4S privatised housing contract in Leeds to defend herself and her child. Politicians and civil servants in Leeds became aware (perhaps for the first time) of what G4S taking over the asylum housing contract from the council actually meant. On Tuesday evening 11 December G4S rang Angela and said they would move her to a &lsquo;better&rsquo; area of Leeds and she could view the property before moving. Leeds City council rang her straight afterwards and said that if the house she was offered by G4S was unacceptable she should ring them immediately. On Wednesday Angela went to the new property, told me it was &lsquo;OK&rsquo; and she was scheduled to be moved at 6pm Wednesday evening.</p><p> Angela&rsquo;s case perhaps demonstrates, as many of us already knew, that there are networks of solidarity and resistance at a local level which bring together asylum seekers, campaigners and politicians to expose and challenge the barbarity of public policies towards asylum seekers and their children in the UK. It also perhaps demonstrates that it is possible sometimes to challenge and to win, and to openly assert that asylum seekers do have rights &ndash; if we fight for them, together.</p><p>On Thursday morning as this piece was being completed I heard that as a result of another woman asylum seeker speaking out and resisting being placed in dirty dangerous accomodation in Leeds, councillors and officers of the City Council had insisted that G4S rehouse four women asylum seekers. The City Council also announced that they have forced G4S &ldquo;to undertake a full review of the property portfolio in Leeds to ensure they meet the contract standards&rdquo;.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/forced-evictions-racist-attacks-meet-new-landlord-security-company-g4s">Forced evictions, racist attacks. Meet the new landlord, security company G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-and-friends-exploit-mother-and-baby-market">G4S and friends exploit the mother and baby market </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/another-shambles-as-g4s-is-entrusted-with-running-asylum-seeker-housing">Another shambles as G4S is entrusted with running asylum seeker housing </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/yorkshire-campaigners-claim-small-victory-over-world-s-biggest-security-com">Yorkshire campaigners claim small victory over world’s biggest security company G4S</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-asylum-housing-evictions-begin-mother-and-baby-dumped-in-substandard-fl">G4S asylum housing, the evictions begin: mother and baby dumped in substandard flat</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light UK Civil society Democracy and government Equality G4S: Securing whose world? Shine A Light John Grayson Mon, 17 Dec 2012 13:13:25 +0000 John Grayson 69920 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Forced evictions, racist attacks. Meet the new landlord, security company G4S https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/forced-evictions-racist-attacks-meet-new-landlord-security-company-g4s <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The UK government has created a new profit source for security giant G4S and its partners: managing housing for asylum seekers. John Grayson reports on a reckless experiment whose result is human misery.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On the evening of Tuesday 30 October a new asylum seeker sent from London, 250 miles north to a property in Thornaby, Stockton found himself, along with four other asylum seekers, besieged by a crowd shouting racist abuse. They broke down the door and broke windows. The asylum seeker, a journalist, had only recently fled from such harassment in Iraq. The area is well known for racism and rowdyism yet the police refused to record the attack as a ‘racist’ incident. The landlord simply repaired the door (not the window), and refused to move the journalist. The other four asylum seekers left the property, fearing further attacks.</p> <p>This is the welcoming world of ‘dispersal’ for new asylum seekers in the North East of England. It is also the reality of privatised for-profit asylum housing in the UK, now dominated by security giant G4S, subcontracting, in this case, to the powerful private housing company Jomast Developments.</p> <p><strong>The scramble to evict people in Yorkshire</strong></p> <p>In the Yorkshire region, <a href="http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/care/g4s-has-10-days-left-to-rehouse-349-people/6524444.article">there are only days to go</a> before G4S and its subcontracting housing firms in Yorkshire must complete the transfer of 450 asylum seekers, mainly family groups with children and dependents, from their local council accommodation into private rented sector housing. (1) </p><p>In June, when G4S officially took over the asylum housing contract in Yorkshire and the North East, the UK Border Agency claimed that they had 4883 supported persons in asylum housing to move over to the new G4S contract. (2) Figures released by Yorkshire local authorities this week show that G4S and the UKBA have in fact managed to evict and rehouse less than half of the families in Yorkshire council humanitarian housing for asylum seekers. Now G4S claim they will evict and rehouse the other half in a week. If this happens it will certainly be done at the expense of asylum seekers’ rights and wellbeing.</p> <p>In Sheffield in the past few weeks 182 asylum seekers, many in family groups, have been evicted and rehoused. Local asylum seeker advice services have been inundated with cases of filthy and even flooded properties being allocated to families, a lack of basic furnishings, faulty electrics, cooking utensils and crockery missing or broken. In many cases, links to schools, medical care, community support have been severed. This is what the abstract concept of asylum housing privatisation actually means in the everyday lives of already traumatised asylum seekers and their families.</p> <p><strong>A pregnant woman pushed out of her home</strong></p> <p>Moving house is reckoned to be one of the most stressful events in the life of the average British family. In Barnsley some of the families to be moved by G4S are three generation asylum seeker families with grandparents, parents, children at local schools, and family members with disabilities, and serious chronic illness. The families may have lived in their council houses for more than five years awaiting outcomes of asylum claims. One family was told in July that they would be moved, allowed only two bags each person, and that they could be moved to Hull (72 miles away) or Newcastle (120 miles away). Over the whole summer, for three months, the families have had to pack, ready to go. (The UK Border Agency and G4S backed down on the ‘two bags rule’ after protests from campaigners).</p> <p>Despite UKBA and G4S undertakings that families with children at school would be given two weeks' notice of a move, one of the families was given five days’ notice on 24 August and not told where they were to be moved. The move was then cancelled. The families have since had repeated notices and cancellations — for the 28 September, for the 30 October. The most recent moving dates are the 9 November and 12 November. They now face a disruptive move in term time for their school age children.</p> <p>In mid August a heavily pregnant asylum seeker resident in Target Housing Association accommodation in Rotherham was granted leave to remain in the UK. As a refugee the woman had to leave the property, her landlords, subcontractors of G4S, would not be paid by the UK Border Agency if she lingered there.&nbsp;(3)</p><p>Her eviction notice was for the same day as the local hospital had insisted that she should go and have the birth induced. Target management made her pack, and suggested that she find her own way with her bags, first to emergency homeless accommodation, and then on to the hospital, pointing out that her destinations were on bus routes. It was only the intervention of a sympathetic member of the Target staff who insisted on using her own car to get the woman to housing and the hospital which made the journeys possible.</p> <p>At the beginning of the ‘Transition’ evictions and rehousing necessitated by the change from contracts for asylum housing held by local councils and private landlords, to new ones for security giant G4S and its private landlord partners, the&nbsp;UK Border Agency&nbsp;gave assurances.&nbsp;“UKBA will oversee the current providers’ Exit Plans and new providers’ Transition Plans to ensure that the provision of services is seamless during the transition period,” they said. (4)</p> <p>The UK Border Agency, a public government body funded by taxpayers, throughout this whole Transition period have worked closely with G4S. UKBA have been in total control of the evictions and rehousing – no move of an asylum seeker to, or from, housing is made without its official authorisation through regional or national civil servants. It is only after the final evictions that G4S take over the asylum housing and transport contracts fully, and, even then, decisions on transfers and moves will still be totally controlled by the Agency. </p> <p><strong>Broken promises, broken rules, asylum seekers at risk</strong></p> <p>The UK Border Agency have claimed throughout that giving G4S the asylum housing contract would not affect the dispersal of new asylum seekers from the South East and London to Yorkshire and the North East. It was to be ‘business as usual’. (5) </p><p>What they should have made clear was that the ‘induction’ housing and transport contracts had also been given to G4S. G4S now control Initial Accommodation at the despised Angel Lodge (as revealed <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/lorna-gledhill/bad-management-and-broken-promises-asylum-housing-gets-g4s-olympic-experie">here</a> on OurKingdom (6)). Their subcontracting housing companies are procuring accommodation for dispersed new asylum seekers throughout Yorkshire and the North East. </p> <p>Since June around 60 per cent of new asylum seekers have been sent from Initial Accommodation in Yorkshire to the North East – mainly to Teesside (Middlesborough and Stockton) and Sunderland. This has torn up tacit agreements with local authorities operating since 2000 with regard to ‘clustering’ (the numbers of asylum seekers dispersed to each authority). In the North East Jomast Developments is the sole subcontractor for G4S, for both moves under Transition, and for dispersal housing. Jomast has placed asylum seekers in its own properties, or its properties under its management with scant regard for the risks to the safety of the individuals concerned.</p> <p>In Sunderland G4S / Jomast currently refuses, in clear breach of its UKBA contract, to give lists of housing to be used for asylum seekers to the police, and local councils. At a meeting on Wednesday 17 October of a group looking at issues surrounding future asylum seekers' support, both the Sunderland city council Housing Manager and the police civilian liaison officer confirmed that Jomast had stopped notifying them who they are putting where.</p> <p>Under UK Border Agency contracts, providers have a clear duty to safeguard asylum seekers against racist incidents:&nbsp;“Accommodation providers must keep under review their property portfolios with regard to the vulnerability to racist incidents of people living in particular premises or in particular area . . . Accommodation providers must consult. . . about allocations to such vulnerable premises and not let these premises to households who may be foreseen to be at risk from harassment.” (7)</p> <p>G4S has appointed a Social Cohesion Manager who seems not to have been active in Sunderland, where asylum seekers are dumped in dirty rooms in high crime areas. Properties are being used in areas well known for far right activity at a time when racist activity is on the rise. On 6 October the far right Infidels mounted a violent demonstration in Sunderland city centre. (8)</p> <p><strong>An old Rachmanite trick</strong></p> <p>On 8 August, with seven days’ notice, Jomast Developments evicted an elderly Congolese asylum seeker couple from a flat in Sunderland. Mr Pambu is 80, Mrs Pambu is 70. The couple had been dispersed to the North East in 2008. They had lived in their flat in Sunderland since 2010. The couple had developed good links with asylum support organisations and the Freedom from Torture organisation. Mrs Pambu, who has diabetes and is disabled, had received specialist support and adaptations from local social services and the NHS. The couple were sent on by the UK Border Agency and Jomast to a flat twelve miles away in Gateshead.</p><blockquote><p>A £183 million family fortune for Jomast.</p></blockquote><p>Two weeks after they arrived their flat became the target for a series of racist attacks with stones thrown at their windows and constant chanting of racial abuse. A series of such racist incidents, many recorded by local police, occurred throughout September and into October. The couple’s plight is well known to the local Gateshead Hate Crime Tension Monitoring Group where both the UKBA and Jomast are involved. Jomast argues it has no properties available back in Sunderland, and the UKBA refuse to move the couple.</p> <p>What perhaps is most significant about the case is that the Pambus were one of thirteen evictions carried out in that area of Sunderland in August by Jomast. Within days, every one of the flats, including the Pambus’s old flat, was occupied by new asylum seeker tenants – of course housed at much higher densities by Jomast. This kind of landlord practice used to be called ‘winkling’, a process whereby tenants are forced from their homes to increase the rents or rental values of the property with new tenants.&nbsp;(9)&nbsp;The Pambus remain beseiged and frightened in their Gateshead flat.</p> <p>Jomast Developments is a private family company controlled by Stockton property developer Stuart Monk. Monk’s family fortune last year was estimated at £183 million.</p> <p>Jomast seems to simply ignore Home Office and UK Border Agency rules for children in the asylum system which state:&nbsp;“Our statutory duty to children includes the need to demonstrate fair treatment which meets the same standard a British child would receive.” (10)</p> <p>In its pursuit of maximum income from UKBA accomodation payments&nbsp;Jomast&nbsp;has, with G4S and the UK Border Agency, established a degrading hostel for asylum seeker mothers and babies in Stockton. (11) Cha Matty, one of the women in the hostel who has been there a year with her baby, says she was “shocked and disappointed at how we have been treated by the powers that be. How inhuman they are treating us, and we are just numbers&nbsp;for them in making a profit which is very unfair and sad.”</p><blockquote><p>"We are just numbers&nbsp;for them in making a profit which is very unfair and sad.”</p></blockquote> <p><strong>A system of institutionalised inhumanity</strong></p> <p>In 1999 the Labour government introduced the Immigration and Asylum Act to make sure asylum seekers were dispersed from the South East of England. The Act also introduced an oppressive and unjust system of ‘support’ for asylum seekers.</p> <p>As immigration barrister Frances Webber puts it in her new book, <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/publications/issues/borderlinejustice/">Borderline Justice</a>, “Whereas the Tories had simply closed off parts of the welfare state to migrants and asylum seekers, Labour came up with a system of institutionalised inhumanity. It accepted responsibilty for providing support but its anxieties to appease the right wing press and to create opportunities for the private sector created a monstrous system which had a lot in common with the workhouse bare subsistence and a deterrent system of coercion, control and stigmatisation.” (12)</p> <p>The 1999 Act stripped asylum seeker tenants in ‘no choice’ asylum housing of all statutory tenants rights, even rights under eviction acts. The campaign to stop security companies G4S, Serco, and Reliance privatising and taking over asylum housing has consistently contested this idea that people can be stripped of citizens rights, and placed in a totally vulnerable ‘illegality’ outside norms of justice and humane treatment. The UK Border Agency and both Labour and Coalition politicians since 1999 have described any successful challenges to its ‘monstrous system’ as ‘concessions’ (13) and asylum seeker and asylum rights groups have over the past months certainly managed to wring out of them a number of ‘concessions’ on the G4S contracts. This has been as a result of action and campaigning by both asylum seeker tenants and asylum rights groups.</p> <p>Currently there is a direct action and legal battle in Glasgow to stop Serco evicting asylum seekers it inherited from the previous contract. (14) The Yorkshire notog4s campaign continues as a campaign against G4S, which is not simply a massive commercial company privatising and exploiting asylum markets, but also a private army company, a prison guard company and a company with an established and well documented record in managing immigration detention centres and trampling on asylum seekers rights. The Yorkshire notog4s campaign continues to campaign against G4S but also <em>for</em> asylum seekers rights.</p> <p>Many if not most asylum seekers, already traumatised by their personal histories, are understandably terrified to campaign openly against the UK Border Agency, and its contractor G4S. They fear publicity in their home countries will threaten relatives there. They believe (rightly or wrongly) that dissent will threaten their claims for asylum. The UK Border Agency has punished dissent, either by forcibly moving asylum seekers, or by tightening the rules and increasing the pressures on individuals and families. </p><p>An advocate for women and children in the Stockton G4S / Jomast hostel, who was moved by the UK Border Agency, has recently spoken out, as has <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/g4s-asylum-housing-evictions-begin-mother-and-baby-dumped-in-substandard-fla">the woman who endured six weeks in a UK Border Agency / United Property Management slum flat in Doncaster</a>, a flat which threatened the health of her sick child. For her rebellion she was made to travel weekly twenty-eight miles to Leeds from Doncaster to ‘sign on’ with a baby who has a heart murmur, at the UK Border Agency regional centre. (15)</p> <p>Despite the UK Border Agency’s denial of asylum seekers rights, and their punishment of dissent the notog4s asylum housing campaign has, from its roots, been a campaign in solidarity with, and alongside asylum seekers, not ‘for’ or ‘on behalf’ of them. At present women in the Stockton hostel are publicly campaigning; an elderly couple in Gateshead are going public on their plight, an Ivorian family in Sheffield were willing to be named, and to take on the UK Border Agency in a High Court action, as was an African lone mother from Bradford.</p> <p>The Yorkshire notog4s campaign started when an asylum seeker activist in Sheffield at a meeting said simply “I do not want a prison guard as my landlord.” The campaign continues, and it is still fundamentally about what Catherine Tshezi a resident of the Jomast hostel has said, that asylum seekers “regardless of our vulnerability” are “human beings who deserve respect, our concerns should be treated with utmost respect”. Respect which asylum seekers demand as their right – part of those asylum rights guaranteed by international treaties and conventions which British governments have signed on behalf of us all.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>References</strong></p> <p>(1) see Emily Twinch ‘G4S has ten days left to rehouse 349 people’ Inside Housing Friday 2 November 2012</p> <p><a title=":http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/care/g4s-has-10-days-left-to-rehouse-349-people/6524444.article" href="http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/care/g4s-has-10-days-left-to-rehouse-349-people/6524444.article">http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/care/g4s-has-10-days-left-to-rehouse-349-people/6524444.article</a></p> <p>see also ‘G4S ‘fails again’ as deadline on asylum seekers’ housing looms’ The Yorkshire Post Thursday 1 November 2012</p> <p>(2) UKBA COMPASS Transition ‘COMPASS Corporate Partner FAQs’ version 4.0 Leeds: UKBA, September 2012.n.p.</p> <p>(3) <a href="http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2012-08-02-charitable-housing-provider-defends-g4s-contract-after-charity-attack">http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2012-08-02-charitable-housing-provider-defends-g4s-contract-after-charity-attack</a> </p> <p>(4) UK Border Agency COMPASS Transition ‘COMPASS Corporate Partner FAQs’ version 3.0 Leeds: UKBA, September 2012.n.p.</p> <p><a href="http://www.migrationyorkshire.org.uk/Userfiles/File/PolicyandResearch/PolicyBriefings/Other/ukba-corporate-partner-Faqsv3-0.doc">http://www.migrationyorkshire.org.uk/Userfiles/File/PolicyandResearch/PolicyBriefings/Other/ukba-corporate-partner-Faqsv3-0.doc</a></p> <p>(5) UK Border Agency COMPASS Transition ‘COMPASS Corporate Partner FAQs version 3.0 Leeds: UKBA, September 2012.n.p</p> <p><a href="http://www.migrationyorkshire.org.uk/Userfiles/File/PolicyandResearch/PolicyBriefings/Other/ukba-corporate-partner-Faqsv3-0.doc">http://www.migrationyorkshire.org.uk/Userfiles/File/PolicyandResearch/PolicyBriefings/Other/ukba-corporate-partner-Faqsv3-0.doc</a></p> <p>&nbsp;(6) <a title="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/lorna-gledhill/bad-management-and-broken-promises-asylum-housing-gets-g4s-olympic-experie" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/lorna-gledhill/bad-management-and-broken-promises-asylum-housing-gets-g4s-olympic-experie">http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/lorna-gledhill/bad-management-and-broken-promises-asylum-housing-gets-g4s-olympic-experie</a></p> <p>(7) NASS Policy Bulletin 81 Racist Incidents 21 June 2004 p3</p> <p><a href="http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/asylumsupportbulletins/general%20/pb81?view=Binary">http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/asylumsupportbulletins/general /pb81?view=Binary</a></p> <p>(8) Matthew Collins ‘Trouble flares in Sunderland’ Hope not Hate Saturday 6th October 2012 </p> <p><a href="http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/article/2210/trouble-flares-in-Sunderland">http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/article/2210/trouble-flares-in-Sunderland</a></p> <p>(9) See Parliamentary debate on winkling <a title="Col. 1406 — HC Deb 03 April 1974 vol 871 c1406" href="http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1974/apr/03/housing-protection-of-tenants#column_1406#column_1406">1406</a> &nbsp;and Simon Jenkins ‘Once they called it Rachmanism. Now it's being done with taxpayers' money’ The Guardian Friday 16 March 2007</p> <p>(10) UK Border Agency ‘Asylum Support Policy Bulletin 31 Dispersal Guidelines’ September 2009 p.1 </p> <p>(11) <a title="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/g4s-jomast-stockton-hostel-and-the-mother-and-baby-market/" href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/g4s-jomast-stockton-hostel-and-the-mother-and-baby-market/">http://www.irr.org.uk/news/g4s-jomast-stockton-hostel-and-the-mother-and-baby-market/</a></p> <p>(12) Frances Webber 2012 ‘Borderline Justice: the fight for Refugee and Migrants Rights’ London: Pluto Press p 92</p> <p>(13) See the language used throughout the UK Border Agency document ‘Asylum Support Policy Bulletin 31 Dispersal Guidelines’ September 2009</p> <p><a href="http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/asylumsupportbulletins/dispersal/pb31?view=Binary">http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/asylumsupportbulletins/dispersal/pb31?view=Binary</a></p> <p>(14) See Jon Burnett ‘Glasgow: Solidarity with asylum seekers facing eviction’ Institute for Race Relations October 18th 2012</p> <p><a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/glasgow-solidarity-with-asylum-seekers-facing-eviction/">http://www.irr.org.uk/news/glasgow-solidarity-with-asylum-seekers-facing-eviction/</a></p> <p>(15) <a title=":http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2012-06-01-Mother-and-baby-dumped-in-unsuitable-flat-by-Border-Agency-subcontractor" href="http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2012-06-01-Mother-and-baby-dumped-in-unsuitable-flat-by-Border-Agency-subcontractor">http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2012-06-01-Mother-and-baby-dumped-in-unsuitable-flat-by-Border-Agency-subcontractor</a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/usman-sheikh/britain-has-become-open-prison-to-migrants">Britain has become an open prison to migrants</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/lorna-gledhill/bad-management-and-broken-promises-asylum-housing-gets-g4s-olympic-experi">Bad management and broken promises: asylum housing gets the G4S Olympic experience</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/stuart-crosthwaite/company-you-need-to-target-is-g4s-opponents-form-strategic-alliance">‘The company you need to target is G4S’. Opponents form strategic alliance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-and-friends-exploit-mother-and-baby-market">G4S and friends exploit the mother and baby market </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/another-shambles-as-g4s-is-entrusted-with-running-asylum-seeker-housing">Another shambles as G4S is entrusted with running asylum seeker housing </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-asylum-housing-evictions-begin-mother-and-baby-dumped-in-substandard-fl">G4S asylum housing, the evictions begin: mother and baby dumped in substandard flat</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Civil society Democracy and government Economics Equality G4S: Securing whose world? Shine A Light 50.50 People on the Move John Grayson Thu, 08 Nov 2012 10:36:00 +0000 John Grayson 69245 at https://www.opendemocracy.net G4S and friends exploit the mother and baby market https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/g4s-and-friends-exploit-mother-and-baby-market <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The latest G4S twist on asylum housing markets – a hostel for asylum seeker mothers and babies in the North East of England.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>G4S, the largest private security firm in the world, won part of the UK Border Agency&rsquo;s (UKBA) asylum housing contract in March 2012. Across the UK, security companies G4S, Serco and Reliance (as part of Clearel Ltd), have obtained contracts possibly worth &pound;600 million over the next five years. These contracts, totally financed from taxpayers, have effectively created a publicly-funded for-profit asylum market. The contracts in Yorkshire are <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/another-shambles-as-g4s-is-entrusted-with-running-asylum-seeker-housing">currently a shambles and in chaos</a>,&nbsp;but the people who are really suffering as a consequence, there and in the North East, are those asylum seekers endlessly waiting for outcomes of asylum claims and &hellip; their children.</p><p><a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Jomast_bedroom_1_.jpg"></a></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><img src="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Jomast_bedroom_1_.jpg" alt="" width="280" height="280" /></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><em>A bedroom at the Jomast hostel &copy; John Grayson</em></p><p><strong>G4S extending its detention estate</strong></p><p><strong>&nbsp;</strong>In the North East of England, if we look under the carpet of the G4S&rsquo; asylum housing contracts, we are standing on a glass floor,&nbsp;through which we can see a world for women asylum seekers and their small children, which even campaigners on asylum rights simply did not believe still existed. The Stockton Jomast hostel for women asylum seekers and their babies and infants up to the age of two and a half, is very recent, established only in 2010. It resurrects a world of punitive housing which takes us back to the women-only segregated hostels of&nbsp;<em>Kathy Come Home</em>, and the morally charged unmarried-mother-and-baby units local authorities developed in the past. More centrally, it is further evidence of the UK&rsquo;s barbaric asylum system which routinely damages the health of babies and children. In interviews I undertook with women at the Stockton hostel they constantly returned to phrases about living in &lsquo;cells&rsquo;, in conditions &lsquo;like a prison&rsquo;, with no respect for their dignity, privacy or different cultures.</p><p>The Stockton hostel resurrects the dark days of asylum housing, when asylum hostels were slotted into prison units and later detention centres. We should recall how campaigners in 2005<a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/carf/feat41.html"> reported on Angel Heights</a>, a hostel for asylum seekers in Newcastle, where Kurdish asylum seeker protestors were arrested by police. &lsquo;The same lack of respect for basic rights is common to those in prisons, detention centres and asylum hostels &hellip; Refugees spoke of conditions at Angel Heights hostel in Newcastle &hellip; the management enter rooms at any time and confiscate possessions. The situation at Angel Heights is not unique. Go and see London Park Hostel in Elephant and Castle. 400&ndash;500 asylum seekers are just dumped there. It is like a concentration camp &hellip; The political establishment has taken away the basic human rights of a whole section of society.&rsquo;</p><p>Awarding the asylum housing contracts in Yorkshire and the Humber and the North East to prison guard company G4S clearly signalled the UKBA&rsquo;s ambitions to extend the privatised &lsquo;detention estate&rsquo;, already managed by G4S and other security companies like Serco. G4S currently manages four UKBA detention centres, including the Cedars &lsquo;family friendly&rsquo; detention centre, which gives a cover for the continued detention of children by using the Barnardo&rsquo;s charity as a partner. G4S also manages seven private prisons, and 675 police and court holding cells throughout Britain. G4S of course also figures in plans to privatise police services. It is ironic, perhaps, that the Stockton Jomast hostel for mothers and babies was previously a &lsquo;police hostel&rsquo;, part of the criminal justice system.</p><p>The opening of the G4S Stockton hostel and Home Office policies on asylum seekers, taken together with G4S&rsquo;s profit seeking, and security-oriented approach, signal the return of attitudes to asylum housing which helped produce Angel Heights. G4S went &lsquo;back to the future&rsquo; by <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/lorna-gledhill/bad-management-and-broken-promises-asylum-housing-gets-g4s-olympic-experie">reopening on 15 October the detested Angel Lodge</a> (also previously managed by the Angel Group), in the grounds of Wakefield high security prison, as the IA (Initial Accommodation) centre from where new asylum seekers will be dispersed to the North East and Yorkshire.</p><p>The development and use of the Stockton hostel also reflects the ongoing crisis in the G4S asylum housing contract in the North East and Yorkshire. In Yorkshire, there are simply not enough private rented houses for G4S to contract, and move asylum seekers into. The crisis is also building up in finding housing for an increased flow of asylum seekers, many from the Middle East, needing to be dispersed in the regions. On the first weekend in October, 220 asylum seekers were awaiting dispersal at the IA centres in Barnsley and Huddersfield.</p><p>G4S won the asylum housing contracts and transport contracts, by offering a cut price contract undercutting councils in Yorkshire. Thus they have only been able to start the contracts &lsquo;on the cheap&rsquo; by sacking drivers, contracting houses in poor condition and cutting support services and staff for asylum seekers when they are being moved.</p><p><a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Jomast_bedroom_3.jpg"></a></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><img src="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Jomast_bedroom_3.jpg" alt="" width="380" height="280" /></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><em>A bedroom at the Jomast hostel &copy; John Grayson</em></p><p><strong>G4S and its friend in the North: Jomast</strong></p><p><strong>&nbsp;</strong>In Stockton the core ambitions and values of G4S seem to have meshed with those of a local property development empire, Jomast Developments, headed by Stuart Monk. He and his family have run Jomast as a private group of companies since 1971, currently with a property portfolio approaching &pound;200 million. Stuart Monk is number eleven in the<a href="http://northeast.greatbritishlife.co.uk/article/the-north-east-life-glitz-list--who-are-the-regions-most-richest-and-most-influential-people-43118/"> North East&rsquo;s Rich List</a> with personal family assets of &pound;138 million.&nbsp;He just squeezed into the&nbsp;<em>Sunday Times 2011 500 Rich List</em>&nbsp;at number 465.</p><p>In 2010, the North East became the only region in the UK to have totally privatised asylum housing with one sole private housing contractor, Jomast. Jomast had taken over previous properties and staff from a failed company called Kimberley, which went into liquidation leaving staff and debts unpaid. Jomast then bid for the extension of the UKBA asylum housing contracts in 2010. It put in a bid which was, according to local campaigners, 38 per cent below bids from local authorities and another company, Clearsprings (in other regions a major national player in the new COMPASS asylum housing contracts).</p><p>Central to this 2010 bid was the Jomast offer to include in the new contract a potentially high-profit asylum hostel, based in a former bail hostel it had bought for redevelopment.&nbsp;Stockton Council and its different departments had waged a campaign to stop any future hostel development throughout 2009 and into 2010, particularly when Jomast put forward the idea of an asylum-seeker mother-and-baby hostel. By July 2010, the Safer Stockton Partnership was receiving reports of the unwelcome development: &lsquo;Members were informed of the changes to the former Police Hostel &hellip; Jomast were seeking to open a hostel for asylum seekers for only women and their children. There would be 24 hour cover at the hostel and any visiting would be controlled. It was stated that one family would be taken in each day over the next 11 days, there would be 11 women and 13 children to begin with&rsquo;. (<em>Safer Stockton Partnership minutes, 6 July 2010</em>.)</p><p>Jomast persuaded the UKBA that such a development was &lsquo;compliant&rsquo;, in other words it fitted the (very low) standards the UKBA demanded of asylum housing. The hostel was also useful in providing places for asylum seekers displaced and moved from Clearsprings asylum housing, mainly in Sunderland. Jomast and its property portfolio, including private rented housing, is still mainly centred in Stockton. It owns very few houses in places like Sunderland and Newcastle. The hostel in Stockton, directly owned by Jomast, would produce more profit than subcontracting from small private landlords in other parts of the North East &ndash; following the model of Angel Heights, which had provided its owners with &pound;700,000 of profit before tax in its first two years.(<em>Download&nbsp;this <a href="http://scotswoodareastrategy.co.uk/KIP%20Reports%20and%20Sheets/KIP%20Report%201(Refugees%20and%20Asylum%20Seekers).doc">Knowledge and Inclusion Project report&nbsp;</a>- Word doc.)</em></p><p>When Jomast won the extension contract in 2010, it rapidly filled the hostel. One woman, among the first residents of the hostel, when it was fully occupied, called the regime Jomast attempted to impose on the women repressive. Already in May 2010 the Safe Stockton committee had heard that &lsquo;visiting to the hostel would be controlled&rsquo;. Why?</p><p><img src="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Jomast_bedroom_2-300x221.jpg" alt="" width="300" height="221" /></p><p><a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Jomast_bedroom_2.jpg"></a></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><em>&copy; John Grayson</em></p><p>Perhaps the control over visitors was an attempt to counter the obvious argument that, by concentrating large numbers of women asylum seekers, not only in one area, but actually in one building, it was increasing their vulnerability. This kind of concentration seems to have been avoided by the UKBA in recent years &ndash; that is until G4S/Jomast COMPASS negotiations sanctioned this provision for the next five years. Professionals and asylum seekers were also convinced that Jomast was bent on developing a building next door to the hostel as an extension of hostel accommodation, making for an even greater concentration. The Stockton hostel was also situated in an area where street prostitution was prevalent and increasing in 2011 &ndash; a fact apparently ignored by the UKBA when it agreed that the hostel could open there. (Safer Stockton Partnership minutes, 10 May 2011.)</p><p>In fact the main motive for Jomast developing the hostel is likely to be simply crude profit, although it is almost impossible to be certain what the commercial contract between Jomast and G4S contains, which would tell us exactly what Jomast will make from the hostel, and of course G4S will &lsquo;top slice&rsquo; any profits made by Jomast in the hostel as the private company in charge of the contract.</p><p><strong>An intrusive and oppressive regime, challenging privacy, threatening sanity</strong></p><p>An early resident said that when she first went to the hostel, a curfew had been imposed. They could not leave the hostel until after nine in the morning and had to return by nine at night. She said the women simply refused to cooperate and Jomast withdrew the demand. Even in October 2012, another woman who had taken advantage of the established rule that asylum seekers could be absent from accommodation for up to seven days, was grilled about whom she was visiting and whether her bank account showed evidence of other income or support.</p><p><img src="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Jomast_kitchen.jpg" alt="" width="380" height="280" /></p><p><a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Jomast_kitchen.jpg"></a></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><em>Kitchen at the Jomast hostel &copy; John Grayson</em></p><p>The residents of the hostel are all women and their young children. Yet few women have ever been employed to actually run the place. A popular woman administrator has just been declared redundant in October by Jomast in its cost cutting exercise. A woman cleaner has two hours a day six days a week, a male cleaner has six hours. Jomast has its own security staff who make three exhaustive checks each day in the morning, early evening and at midnight. This process was described by one resident as &lsquo;security noisily tramping down corridors, knocking loudly and entering kitchens, toilet and shower rooms and bathrooms&rsquo;. The midnight security check apparently wakes babies and children, and one mother said she had never slept properly. Only one of the security staff is a woman. The male cleaner and male security staff enter communal facilities and are said regularly to interrupt women when they are showering and bathing.</p><p><strong>No place to bring up a child</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Jomast_hallway.jpg"></a></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><img src="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Jomast_hallway-300x221.jpg" alt="" width="300" height="221" /></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><em>A hallway at the Jomast hostel &copy; John Grayson</em></p><p>The individual rooms are oppressively small with space only for beds, cots and storage, and a sink. (See pictures). There is no space for toddlers to play &ndash; women open their doors to allow children to cross the corridors to give them a little space. There is no space to store large toys in rooms and they are banned from corridors because they are a fire risk. All buggies are stored in a room downstairs so mothers cannot wheel them on corridors. Some children in the hostel have already spent over a year in their tiny rooms.</p><p>Local statutory services, acutely aware of the effects of this kind of living on mother/child relationships, have encouraged mothers to go to the local Surestart centre and a drop-in facility in the area. The UKBA has, on a number of occasions, seen the hostel regime as &lsquo;compliant&rsquo;, and Jomast keeps the age limit on children at two and a half years so as to scrape inside Housing Act living space standards.</p><p>The place feels like a detention facility, and according to residents some women totally break down under the pressure.</p><p><img src="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Jomast_diningroom.jpg" alt="" width="380" height="280" /></p><p><a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Jomast_diningroom.jpg"></a></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><em>Dining room at the Jomast hostel &copy; John Grayson</em></p><p>No thought or respect seems to have been given in UKBA inspections to the reality of the lived traumatic experience of women and children housed there &ndash; women who claim to be by definition (quoting the 1951 Refugee Convention) fleeing from their own countries with a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality etc. Much of the rest of UK government public policy now rests on the crucial importance of early experience and early learning of children in determining their future &hellip; not apparently in Stockton, and not if your mother is an asylum seeker and your landlord is G4S.</p><p><strong>The hostel as a daily insult to mothers caring for children</strong></p><p>The hostel has three floors, with nine tiny rooms off bleak corridors (see pictures) on each floor. There is also an annexe with three larger rooms. There are at present thirty women and thirty-one children under two and a half in the building. There is a very diverse group of women and children in the hostel &ndash; from China, Africa and South Asia &ndash; all with different religious and cultural practices. The hostel&rsquo;s design and communal facilities are a standing insult to the women &ndash; showing contempt for the hygiene and cooking methods which they would surely ensure for themselves and their children if housed as separate households. (Ensuring a separate household for a mother and child had become the norm, certainly in council asylum housing and in most private rented asylum accommodation in recent UKBA contracts in Yorkshire and the North East, but G4S is changing all that.)</p><p>In the Stockton hostel nine mothers and babies share each of the three kitchens. The ground floor kitchen requires mothers to carry hot meals up two flights of steps with babies in their arms (see picture), back to their rooms, if they don&rsquo;t want to use the small &lsquo;dining area&rsquo; with an old table and a mixture of second-hand chairs adjoining one of the kitchens (see picture) or the communal area with its cheap plastic armchairs.</p><p>I saw only two washing machines and two dryers in a room on one floor (see picture) which presumably serve either the nine women on that floor, or the thirty women in the building. Another bathroom had two baths side by side, which the women found both puzzling and amusing. Another, with one bath, was obviously used as a drying room for children&rsquo;s clothes, with hardly any room to move around in.</p><p>I was told that for much of the time, the smells from storage bins containing used nappies and other material spread throughout the corridors.</p><p>On one floor serving nine women and their children there was a room which contained two toilets and two showers divided only by a thin partition &ndash; which presumably challenged most of the mothers&rsquo; hygiene anxieties and personal religious taboos. This room had retained a male toilet sign on its outer door. (See picture)</p><p><img src="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Jomast_toilet_door.jpg" alt="" width="380" height="280" /></p><p><a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Jomast_toilet_door.jpg"></a></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><em>Entrance to toilets and bathrooms at the Jomast hostel &copy; John Grayson</em></p><p><strong>Resistance &ndash; women challenging the hostel</strong></p><p>Local authority officers and professionals in Stockton lost their battle to stop the hostel opening in 2010, but some residents have constantly questioned and challenged the regime imposed by Jomast. One woman who became an advocate for immediate changes was moved out by the UKBA. Another woman challenged her &lsquo;no choice&rsquo; move to the hostel and worked with a sympathetic local authority officer to defy Jomast and the UKBA, and to get an acceptable home for herself and her child. Other women have linked up with local asylum rights campaigners. Many of the women in the hostel attended a meeting with G4S and UKBA in April. Local asylum support agencies thought they had wrung a concession from G4S in the early summer, that the hostel would not be part of the new five-year COMPASS asylum housing contract, but the hostel contract was signed with Jomast on 1 September.</p><p>The UKBA did undertake another inspection of the hostel to assess its &lsquo;contract compliance&rsquo;. Apparently it simply asked for the corridors to be painted before the handover. The place obviously fitted nicely into the Home Office and UKBA&rsquo;s &lsquo;deterrence&rsquo; philosophy of providing the sort of support which would deter asylum seekers from coming to the UK.</p><p><strong><em>This piece was <a href="http://www.irr.org.uk/news/g4s-jomast-stockton-hostel-and-the-mother-and-baby-market/">originally published</a> on the Institute for Race Relations website.&nbsp;</em></strong></p><p><em>SYMAAG (South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group), with the notog4syorkshireplus group, is actively monitoring and challenging G4S evictions and rehousing of asylum seekers. Details of the campaigning against G4S asylum housing contracts can be found on the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.symaag.org.uk/">website</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Democracy and government Equality G4S: Securing whose world? Shine A Light John Grayson Wed, 24 Oct 2012 16:53:32 +0000 John Grayson 69006 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Another shambles as G4S is entrusted with running asylum seeker housing https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/another-shambles-as-g4s-is-entrusted-with-running-asylum-seeker-housing <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/g4s house.jpeg " alt="" width="140" />While the world’s biggest security firm has suffered international humiliation over its mishandling of the London Olympics, another more modest piece of business has been unravelling in its hands.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Back in June, when G4S was looking forward to making a big impression as lead security contractor to the London Olympics, the company signed off a less glamorous but more profitable piece of business – managing housing for thousands of asylum seekers in the north of England. The seven-year £211m contract with the UK Border Agency’s commercial arm COMPASS was especially welcome to G4S, which had lost a deportation escort contract with the UK Border Agency, after the death of Jimmy Mubenga in October 2010.</p> <p>But the contract has not been plain sailing for the security giant, who have been harried by campaigners across Yorkshire working with asylum rights groups, outraged that a prison guard and immigration detention centre company can privatise the housing of around 1000 asylum seekers presently housed and supported by local councils.</p> <p>Two groups —&nbsp;South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG) and Why Refugee Women? — in May and June <a title=":http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2012-06-01-mother-and-baby-dumped-in-unsuitable-flat-by-border-agency-subcontractor" href="http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2012-06-01-mother-and-baby-dumped-in-unsuitable-flat-by-border-agency-subcontractor">criticised</a>&nbsp; the chosen partner of G4S, private housing company UPM (United Property Management), for forcibly moving a mother and sick baby a hundred miles from Bradford to Doncaster. The UPM flat in Doncaster was condemned by the UKBA itself, but the mother and baby had to endure six weeks there before being rescued by the local children’s services department in Doncaster. UPM was <a title=":http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2012-06-19-asylum-seeker-housing-provider-dropped-after-criticism" href="http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2012-06-19-asylum-seeker-housing-provider-dropped-after-criticism">dropped</a> from the G4S contract.</p> <p>On June 18 a rather rattled G4S announced through the UKBA that it was finally able to take on the asylum housing contract and would have four totally new housing companies as its partners: Cascade Homes Ltd, Live Management, Mantel, and a charitable housing association, Target HA, based in Sheffield. Cascade did have some form in asylum housing, but apparently only briefly subcontracting for UPM and Kirklees council. Live Management, registered as a private company only since January 2012, had no form at all. Mantel, part of a commercial property company, was to play no part in the first stages of the contract. Only Target HA emerged as a housing provider with a history of local authority contracts for housing vulnerable people – <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/outsourcing-charity-%E2%80%93-g4s-way#http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/outsourcing-charity-%25E2%2580%2593-g4s-way">in its case ex-offenders</a>.</p> <p><strong>Target Housing as a fig leaf for G4S</strong></p> <p>For more than fifty years Yorkshire councils had provided housing for refugees. Now that was being handed over to the world’s biggest surveillance and detention company, with a well regarded local charity acting as front man and figleaf. Just as children’s charity Barnado’s <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/simon-parker/child-detention-goes-on-and-on-in-uk#http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/simon-parker/child-detention-goes-on-and-on-in-uk">rents its reputation to G4S</a> and the Border Agency at the Cedars family detention centre, providing cover for the continued detention of children, Target Housing was to give a credible face to G4S, as it moved from its profitable asylum markets into the expanding markets for private capital in social housing.</p> <p>It was a good choice; the CEO of Target was a Chilean refugee, Gino Toro, with personal experience of working for refugee housing associations. In early summer 2011 G4S had organised a competitive bidding process for voluntary sector housing providers. Target, like most voluntary organisations, and many specialist housing associations, had been badly hit by cuts in public expenditure, and a resulting drying up of contracts. In 2011 they had a bad year, they told the Charity Commission:</p> <p><em>‘Given the economic climate and funding cuts one of our objectives was to avoid any compulsary (sic) staff redundancies’ </em><em>(1)</em></p> <p>Gino Toro says he won a sub contract from G4S in 2011 to house around 250 asylum seekers, in family groups in Sheffield, Hull and Derby. Target, according to Moro, underbid its rivals to win the contract estimated at £2.5 million. Their present total annual turnover is about £2 million, so the contract was important for Target’s survival.</p> <p>So Target are now players in a game where privatisation means cutting staff costs and reducing service to ensure profits for lead organisation G4S. Target’s unqualified ‘Team Leader’ for their new asylum contract, will be <a href="http://www.targetsheffield.org.uk">paid the equivalent of £8 per hour gross,</a> roughly what G4S casual employees recruited as guards for the Olympics were paid. Slimmed down staffing will mean vulnerable asylum seeker families will not get the support the councils have offered them.</p> <p>The G4S assumption that buying a ‘social housing’ provider would scale down opposition in Sheffield totally backfired. Gino Moro was well known in the Chilean refugee community in Sheffield – a community still based on memories of the politics of the Allende years in Chile, and still active in asylum rights campaigning. The Chilean community website invited comments on the Target contract and started a campaign, with SYMAAG, to get Target to withdraw from the G4S contract&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chilescda.org/2012/06/no-to-g4s-no-to-serco/">here</a>.</p> <p><strong>G4S sanitises its reputation and wins over the charities</strong></p> <p>The Target experience demonstrates the way in which G4S can be sanitised, losing its reputation in the ‘tainted trade’ of private security, and accepted as a credible ‘partner’ in providing housing for vulnerable tenants like asylum seekers, and perhaps become a major player in the social housing market (2).&nbsp;</p> <p>Gino Toro defended working with G4S because he said other well known associations with refugee housing experience ‘like Metropolitan’ (Housing Partnership) were also involved in releasing refugee housing for the G4S contract. Metropolitan, with 80,000 tenants and clients, is the largest UK regeneration and ‘social business’ housing association. Its origins lie in the Metropolitan Coloured Peoples Housing Association of 1957 which housed Jamaican and West Indian immigrants. Metropolitan has in recent years taken over Safe Haven, previously involved in asylum housing in Yorkshire, and the Refugee Housing Association, and still runs the Sheffield Station Foyer for refugees that was founded in 2005. The chair of Metropolitan is Barbara Roche a former Labour immigration minister.</p> <p>In their efforts to extend their ‘asylum markets’ and ‘detention estates’ into asylum housing, all the private security companies involved in the £620 million contracts —&nbsp;G4S, Serco and Reliance — set out to encourage voluntary organisations, and charitable housing associations with experience in refugee and asylum housing and services, into partnerships as subcontractors. None of the security companies favoured by the Home Office had any previous experience in the field of housing – they needed to absorb and build in this experience, and credibility, to the contract bids. Reliance, the smallest of the security companies, privately owned by Brian Kingham, a Tory party donor since 2001, simply formed a joint venture, Clearel Ltd, with private company Clearsprings who had held asylum housing contracts with the Home Office since 2000. Clearel have the contract for London, the South West and Wales (3).</p> <p>G4S set about its lobbying and PR project by recruiting&nbsp;<a href="//localhost/http/:uk.linkedn.com:pub:rebecca-woodhouse:44:814:519">Rebecca Woodhouse</a> as Senior Bid Manager for G4S Security Services in February 2011. Between 2006 and 2010 Woodhouse had been Business Initiatives Officer for the Metropolitan Support Trust. Previously she had been a support manager for the Refugee Housing Association (Metropolitan Housing Trust) from 2004 to 2006. (G4S says Woodhouse is a bid manager for “G4S security services” and “This area of the business is completely separate to the part of the business involved in providing housing for asylum seekers and Rebecca has never been involved, in any capacity, with that area of work.”)</p> <p>In Yorkshire and the North East, G4S brought in housing consultant, Andrew Gray, a former president of the Chartered Institute of Housing, to set up its asylum housing sub contractors. Gray was well known in the field of social housing, and added housing expertise, and mainstream respectability, to the G4S contract bid. As the £120 million contract unfolded, G4S then recruited Duncan Wells as its Social Cohesion manager. Wells was the chief executive of RETAS, a Leeds based refugee organisation with an established reputation and strong links into the voluntary and charitable asylum support networks. Tiffy Allen, the national convenor of the extensive City of Sanctuary (CoS) movement, is a former colleague of Wells at RETAS, and, according to campaigners, is currently trying to get City of Sanctuary groups to support Wells to set up G4S consultation forums for asylum support groups.</p> <p>It is perhaps worth noting that Sheffield City of Sanctuary, which started the national City of Sanctuary movement in 2007, was the organisation which actually instigated the campaign in January 2012 against G4S taking over asylum housing in South Yorkshire, by calling on SYMAAG (<a href="http://www.symaag.org.uk">South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group</a>) to lead a coalition of charities into a campaign and a protest demonstration.</p> <p>This careful public relations and recruitment strategy by G4S, and its tireless efforts to network and appear as a mainstream private corporation simply pursuing contracts for outsourcing asylum housing and services, gradually neutralised any active opposition. A Report sponsored by the Joseph Rowntree Trust and Metropolitan, in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Housing entitled&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cih.org/publication-free/display/vpathDCR/templatedata/cih/publication-free/data/Housing_and_migration_A_UK_guide_to_issues_and_solutions">‘Housing and Migration: UK Guide to issues and solutions’</a>, published in 2012, in the middle of the contract furore on G4S, is totally uncritical of SERCO, G4S and Reliance. The Report, written by John Perry, simply states:</p> <p>“In 2012 a new challenge is to forge partnerships between the private companies that will provide asylum accommodation, local services, and migrant support organisations . . . it is going to be vital to encourage the companies to take a strategic view, recognise the ‘civic’ role they need to fulfil and contribute to successful integration.’ (p.14)</p> <p><strong>The Yorkshire G4S contract unravels</strong></p> <p>The campaign success in removing UPM from the G4S contract brought chaos and indecision to G4S and the UKBA in Yorkshire – not unlike the ‘shambles’ of the G4S Olympics contract. UKBA announced that G4S had removed Gray from contract supervision; as they euphemistically put it he was given a ‘different role’.</p> <p>Despite all their undertakings to keep asylum seekers and families in the same areas where councils have housed them, G4S and the UKBA are now simply tearing up agreements. On June 13 an official UKBA statement was issued saying</p> <p><em>“There is no intention during transition to re-house individuals currently residing in Yorkshire &amp; Humberside to the North East.” </em><em></em></p> <p>On 24 June a family was forcibly moved from Sheffield to Stockton, a hundred miles away, and other single asylum seekers have been moved, or threatened with moves, to Stockton or Middlesborough. Barnsley asylum seeker families have been threatened with moves 120 miles away to Newcastle.</p> <p><strong>G4S desperation and ‘reverse privatisation’</strong></p> <p>G4S is becoming so desperate that it is, remarkably, trying a form of ‘reverse privatisation’ by paying local authorities, and housing associations, like InCommunities in Bradford, to allow them to take over and manage asylum accommodation with sitting asylum seeker tenants from previous local council contracts. This is because G4S and their private contractors cannot find any local private rented sector accommodation to put the families in, when they have to leave local authority housing. Campaigners in Kirklees (Huddersfield) say the council there has turned down at least two offers from G4S. </p> <p>Target Housing, the only social housing provider willing, so far, to openly partner G4S in Yorkshire, is now reeling from <a href="http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2012-08-01-Charity-housing-provider-criticised-after-taking-2-5m-asylum-contract-with-G4S">exposure in the national housing press</a>, and the local media in South Yorkshire. Demand for them to withdraw from the contract is gathering momentum. The trustees are now being lobbied, leaflets are being prepared and actions scheduled.</p> <p>With the G4S shambles in the Olympics being reflected in chaos in the asylum housing contracts, the G4S hold on the Yorkshire and North East contract is uncertain. Campaigners are calling for a rapid return to contracts held directly with the local councils throughout Yorkshire, with no G4S involvement; contracts grounded in public service values, welcoming asylum seekers, instead of the profit-oriented values of an international security company exploiting its ‘asylum markets’ with the tacit support of the social and refugee housing establishment.</p> <p><strong>Notes &amp; references</strong></p> <p>(1) TARGET HOUSING LIMITED charity number 1017841 Summary Information Return 2011 to Charity Commission</p> <p>(2) Angelica Thumala, Benjamin Goold and Ian Loader ‘A tainted trade? Moral ambivalence and legitimation work in the private security industry’&nbsp; British Journal of Sociology 2011 vol 62 issue 2 pp283-303</p> <p>(3) GMB (General Municipal and Boilermakers Union) ‘Posh Dosh for the Posh Boys: the Sunday Times Rich List and how they support the Tory Party’ May 2012</p> Shinealight uk Shine A Light G4S: Securing whose world? Shine A Light John Grayson Thu, 09 Aug 2012 14:32:54 +0000 John Grayson 67481 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Outsourcing charity – the G4S way https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/john-grayson/outsourcing-charity-g4s-way <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The security firm G4S has spread its tentacles far and wide in the UK. Now it is extending its reach into charity, after it signed a contract with a charitable housing association in Yorkshire. Where next?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Soon, if you commit a crime in Lincolnshire you may well find yourself being processed by G4S police staff, held in a G4S custody suite in a G4S police station, appear before a G4S-trained magistrate, and perhaps be sent to the G4S-run Wolds prison with a G4S probation officer, ending up in ex-offenders accommodation in South Yorkshire, run by a charitable housing association <span><a href="http://www.targetsheffield.org.uk/">Target</a></span> which from last week is also contracted to G4S.</p> <p>Target will house asylum seekers under the G4S security company’s contract with the UK Border Agency. Target contracts with G4S knowing that some of its new tenants have recent experience of G4S detention centres – detention centres where a Freedom of Information request has just revealed that in the first three months of this year 21 detainees attempted to kill themselves in G4S’s Brook House and Tinsley House centres – a 200 per cent increase on the previous quarter.</p> <p>Many of us who work with people seeking asylum in Sheffield, Barnsley and Rotherham, where Target operates, have listened to asylum seekers’ accounts of their experience of encounters with G4S escorts, detention centre guards and prison officers. They talk openly of the death of <span><a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/jimmy-mubenga">Jimmy Mubenga</a></span> (who died during restraint by G4S guards on a plane at Heathrow), and the brutality of G4S escorts. </p> <p>And many of the people we work with have met G4S in other countries. Sheffield asylum seekers talk of encountering brutal G4S prison guards in South Africa, G4S staff at Kabul airport, and G4S security guards in Afghanistan. They overwhelmingly agree with a Zimbabwean asylum seeker tenant who said “I do not want a prison guard as my landlord”.</p> <p>It is perhaps not at all surprising that a housing company in these difficult economic times opts to pick up business where it can. What is deeply shocking to asylum support charities and campaigners in South Yorkshire is that Target is a charitable housing association with ostensibly liberal reforming and democratic values.</p> <p>Target even claims that for its residents “<span><a href="http://www.targetsheffield.org.uk/">Volunteering is becoming a big part of resident involvement</a></span>”. Target will soon find out that it has signed a contract with UKBA which means its new ‘residents’ or ‘clients’ are banned from any volunteering which can be defined as ‘work’. It has also agreed to, in effect, spy on its residents and <span><a href="http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/aboutus/workingwithasylumseekers/standards-required-for-asylum-ac">report to the local UKBA Immigration teams</a></span>:</p> <ul> <li><p>&nbsp;- Any reasonable suspicions that a Service User may be engaged in criminal activity, violent extremism or radicalisation</p> </li><li><p>&nbsp;- Any reasonable suspicions that a Service User may be living beyond the means of their support</p> </li><li><p>&nbsp;- Any reasonable suspicions that the Service User is working for payment</p> </li></ul> <p>Target has become one of the growing list of charities to be sucked into the outsourcing and privatisation mania which is part of the ‘modernising’ of public services, started in earnest by New Labour, and continued and intensified by the current Coalition. Labour also pioneered the promotion of private security companies like G4S to exploit ‘asylum markets’ – Lord Reid, a former Labour Home Secretary, is still promoting G4S as one of its board members. </p> <p>G4S contracts are part of what Stuart Weir on OurKingdom has called a process of <span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/stuart-weir/britain-is-not-just-‘undergoing-privatisation’-this-is-modern-enclosure-movem">modern-day enclosure</a></span> of the public sphere, state services, and now the voluntary and charitable sectors by the private sector, using public funds to privatise them, and in the process, undermining and corrupting their values with the values of ‘the market’, and an international for-profit security company. </p> <p>In Yorkshire G4S has recruited the chief executive of a respected refugee organisation, <span><a href="http://retasleeds.wordpress.com/">RETAS</a></span>, based in Leeds, for a prominent role with G4S in the coming evictions and relocation of people in asylum housing, thereby discrediting the organisation and ending trust from asylum seekers and refugees.</p> <p>Charities can legitimately earn income from asylum housing ‘markets’, and have proved in the past, when working with local councils, to be better landlords than <span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/yorkshire-campaigners-claim-small-victory-over-world’s-biggest-security-comp">private landlords like UPM</a></span> – but not always. Ypeople, the charitable housing company of the YMCA in Glasgow has just ended an £11 million asylum housing contract which is to be taken over by SERCO another private security giant, like G4S, heavily mired in the asylum deportation and detention market. Ypeople have ended their contract by evicting 156 asylum seekers, turning them out on the streets, destitute.</p> <p>In April <span><a href="http://www.paih.org/">Positive Action in Housing</a></span> reported that officials of the Christian charity were:</p> <p>“Turning off . . . electricity, changing locks, putting up metal doors, effectively freezing and locking out the most vulnerable in our society from eerily rundown buildings with empty flats no one else wants to live in.” </p> <p>The YMCA already had a compromised image. In 2005 it had been <span><a href="///Users/nikiseth-smith/Downloads/news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4597807.stm">criticised by the TUC, and others</a></span>, and forced to withdraw from bidding to supervise compulsory unpaid community work for ‘failed’ asylum seekers, under Section 10 of Labour’s 2004 Asylum Act.</p> <p>Other major charities have also been sucked into the orbit, and privatised values, of G4S and the security industry. Barnardo’s provide “welfare services” to families detained at the Border Agency’s new “Cedars” detention facility run by G4S. Barnardo’s also run services for prisoners families in G4S private prisons in South Wales (paid for from public funds and £3 million from the Big Lottery) Other major charities like the Pre-school Learning Alliance have tarnished their reputations and ethical practice by signing contracts with G4S. </p> <p><span><a href="http://www.barnardos.org.uk/news_and_events/media_centre/press_releases.htm?ref=70802">Anne Marie Carrie, chief executive of Barnardo’s, defended their work with G4S</a></span> at Cedars thus:</p> <p lang="en-US">“Barnardo’s decision to provide welfare and social care services to asylum seeking families at the new pre-departure accommodation goes back to our core purpose; supporting the most vulnerable children in the UK.”</p> <p lang="en-US">In fact Barnardo’s collusion has helped make the continued detention of this vulnerable group of children viable, by giving the new detention arrangements Barnardo’s stamp of approval.</p> <p>Paul McDowell the present director of charity NACRO argued rather strangely in May 2010, when the charity was bidding with G4S to run Belmarsh West and other prisons, that it would be <span><a href="http://thirdsector.co.uk/news/Article/991706/Interview-Paul-McDowell-chief-executive-Nacro/">"morally wrong" for charities to abandon service users by refusing to collaborate with private companies.</a></span></p> <p>He maintained that, although it was ethical to support private security companies like G4S with services, "I don't know of a charity whose principles fit with running prisons.". Actually two charities did decide that their principles allowed this, as <span><a href="///Users/nikiseth-smith/Downloads/www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2010/jul/13/ken-clarke-prison-reforms-voluntary-sector">The Guardian</a></span> pointed out:</p> <p lang="en">“The unusual thing about the Belmarsh West contract is that the successful consortium is built on an alliance of the private and voluntary sectors. For the first time Turning Point, the substance misuse charity, and Catch 22, formed after the merger of Rainer and Crime Concern, are to work with Serco.”</p> <p lang="en">Labour and Coalition governments have been using public funds to encourage international corporations like G4S and SERCO to create a privatised security state in Britain. Few of us are wakening up to this fact, even fewer of us have noticed that in the process companies like G4S are outsourcing, privatising and degrading what is left of public service values in our civil society. </p> <p lang="en"><strong>Acknowledgements:&nbsp;</strong><em>David Price and Clare Sambrook provided useful material for this article</em></p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> </div> </div> Shinealight uk Shine A Light Democracy and government Economics G4S: Securing whose world? Shine A Light John Grayson Thu, 28 Jun 2012 14:20:01 +0000 John Grayson 66737 at https://www.opendemocracy.net