Forced Evictions, Racist Attacks: What Britain's New Landlord Has in Store for Asylum Seekers in Private Housing
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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. (3)
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.
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 UK Border Agency gave assurances. “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)
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.
Broken promises, broken rules, asylum seekers at risk
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)
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 here on OurKingdom (6)). Their subcontracting housing companies are procuring accommodation for dispersed new asylum seekers throughout Yorkshire and the North East.
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.
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.
Under UK Border Agency contracts, providers have a clear duty to safeguard asylum seekers against racist incidents: “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)