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Forced Evictions, Racist Attacks: What Britain's New Landlord Has in Store for Asylum Seekers in Private Housing

The UK government has created a new profit source for security giant G4S and its partners: managing housing for asylum seekers. It can only be described as a reckless experiment whose result is human misery.
 
 
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The logo for G4S, a British private security company.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 
 
 
 

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.

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.

The scramble to evict people in Yorkshire

In the Yorkshire region,  there are only days to go 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)

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.

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.

A pregnant woman pushed out of her home

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).

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.

 
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