Forced Evictions, Racist Attacks: What Britain's New Landlord Has in Store for Asylum Seekers in Private Housing
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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)
An old Rachmanite trick
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.
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.
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. (9) The Pambus remain beseiged and frightened in their Gateshead flat.
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.
Jomast seems to simply ignore Home Office and UK Border Agency rules for children in the asylum system which state: “Our statutory duty to children includes the need to demonstrate fair treatment which meets the same standard a British child would receive.” (10)
In its pursuit of maximum income from UKBA accomodation payments Jomast 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 for them in making a profit which is very unfair and sad.”
A system of institutionalised inhumanity
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.
As immigration barrister Frances Webber puts it in her new book, Borderline Justice, “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)