“G4S: Olympic Chaos, Asylum Housing Chaos” – A SYMAAG Statement

 

Private security army G4S have been in the news a lot recently. And not just because they are being paid £135 million of public money to house asylum seekers in Yorkshire, despite their record of abuse and racism towards them (for example, see here or here or here or here).

 

Most spectacularly, the world’s biggest security army have, of course, failed to provide security at the Olympic games (this time they were paid £284 million of public money). In response, G4S are now trying to recruit a new public relations manager.

 

For more on G4S and the many campaigns against them, see the No to G4S blogspot and Open Democracy’s “Securing Whose World” series.

 

An emergency bulletin from SYMAAG notog4s

July 26th 2012

 

 

As most of you will know we in the notog4s campaign have tended to assume that the UKBA /G4S undertakings and official statements have meant that evictions and movements of single people and families would, for the majority, mean movements, at worst, within the broad region of Yorkshire and theHumber.

 

The latest official UKBA Transition bulletin makes it abundantly clear that the claims we made early on in the campaign that in South and West Yorkshire in particular there simply was not a market in ‘decent’ PRS (Public Rented Sector) housing for G4S to exploit was absolutely correct.

 

 

Target Housing off target

 

One family of two adults and a one year old were moved on Tuesday 24th July 100 miles from Sheffield toStockton onTees. The UKBA Transition Bulletin openly threatens more families with such a move.

This case is even more significant because it was from an existing private landlord property, although the new G4S contractor in Sheffield, Target Housing claim to have accommodation available for families – so why have the family been sent 100 miles away from contacts and support?

 

In Barnsley asylum seeker families have been warned by the outgoing asylum team of moves possibly toHullandNewcastle. One family interviewed this week ,of grandparents, parents and school age children,  were given this warning and told they would probably have to move their household possessions in two bags each.

 

Live Management, the G4S contractor inBarnsleyis, we understand, considering acquiring unsuitable properties which they propose to use on a ‘temporary’ basis until they can find contract compliant ones.

 

 

The Return of Angel Lodge

 

The dreaded Angel Lodge inWakefield, purchased from Angel Housing, has emerged as the newYorkshireIAcentre from September. SYMAAG executive members have horrific memories of actually staying in this dreadful accommodation, oppositeWakefieldhigh security prison. We are campaigning against this decision.

 

This chaos in UKBA and G4S also indicates that our campaigning (removing UPM and now mobilising against Target) has deepened the crisis for the UKBA and G4S. The ‘soft’ approach of Andrew Gray has now been replaced by the asylum market business approach of Jules Bickers, already deeply unpopular with voluntary sector asylum organisations in the regions he has worked in.

 

This is yet another indication that we were right to claim that g4s had no experience of asylum housing and that their failures under the contract would constantly punish asylum seeker single people and families who are simply housed awaiting the outcome of asylum claims.

 

Moreover our fears about the contract fundamentally challenging the basic human rights of families, children and vulnerable asylum seekers seem also to be proving unfortunately to be correct

 

We have to challenge the UKBA now to cancel the contract with UKBA and extend the target contracts with local authorities and transfer housing associations inYorkshire.

 

 

 

Chaos on the Olympics contract now chaos on the asylum housing contract

 

G4s are demonstrating exactly the same failings exposed in the Olympics contracts, as one MP put it: ‘their aspirations run far ahead of their abilities’

 

Their chaotic and incompetent management structures are even more exposed in the asylum housing field – after all in the Olympics contract they were in their key business of events security.

 

 

Their incompetence in a field they know nothing about –  housing – is much more serious – here they are embarking on a contract which they know will threaten the rights and well being of up to a thousand vulnerable asylum seekers in Yorkshire, whom we should be welcoming to our region, not punishing and threatening them, using tax payers money – our money.

 

John Grayson

SYMAAG notog4s

 

Target Housing: Sheffield Charity’s Reputation Shredded By G4S Deal

When G4S eventually won the COMPASS contract to house asylum seekers in Yorkshire, Humberside and the Midlands they were well aware that their experience with asylum seekers was limited to detaining them, transporting them to detention centres and (until the death of Jimmy Mubenga, while in G4S custody, in 2010) forcibly deporting them.

 

 “They Come Round At Any Time”

G4S tried desperately to point to their use of “caring” sub-contractors. They pointed to their sub-contract with United Property Management (UPM). For anyone familiar with asylum housing and especially for anyone unlucky enough to have been housed by UPM, this was a bad joke. Apart from a history of gross inefficiency, many people seeking asylum associate UPM with abusive behaviour: “They (UPM) come round at any time. They open the door of the house without the knowledge of the people who live there” one Rotherham asylum seeker told SYMAAG. In another property, housing 6 people, UPM had provided one old cooker, one set of cutlery, one plate and one pan: “We had to cook in shifts, sometimes I didn’t eat until after midnight” one ex-UPM tenant reported to us.

 

 UPM Dumped

So ex-tenants of UPM, asylum rights campaigners and most people who ever came across them were delighted when UPM were dumped as G4S sub-contractors last month after a campaign by Why Refugee Women? and SYMAAG. G4S thrashed around for replacement sub-contractors, settling on 2 minor property managing companies (with zero experience of housing asylum seekers) and a third, Cascade Housing which is so poor it was once sacked by UPM for incompetence! The 4th replacement sub-contractor was to be Target Housing, a Sheffield-based charity which had a record of working with ex-offenders and other vulnerable groups.

 

 Chilean Community Appalled

It would be fair to say that Target Housing, run by Gino Toro a Chilean refugee, enjoyed a reputation as an organisation with some integrity. Until that is, they took G4S’ money and became their major subcontractor in Sheffield, Rotherham (and potentially Derby and Hull). The Chilean community in South Yorkshire, asylum seekers and campaigners have been appalled that Target Housing is prepared to give cover to G4S, allowing them to claim that a (hitherto) respected housing charity is on board.

 

The Sums Don’t Add Up

Target make big claims about the services they intend to provide to asylum tenants, but with a handful of (underpaid) staff and (untrained) volunteers, the sums just don’t add up.  We have appealed to Target CEO Gino Toro to withdraw from the G4S COMPASS contract. Even with G4S’ Olympic shambles on everyone’s lips, he refused. So SYMAAG, along with asylum seekers housed under the new COMPASS contract will be keeping a close watch on Target – and all the other sub-contractors. When they fail to treat asylum tenants with dignity or provide the service they deserve, we will protest.

 

Chilean community protest in Sheffield, commemorating their 9/11 when Pinochet’s coup killed thousands and created many refugees. See http://bit.ly/QtXLmL

Have your say about Target Housing’s collaboration with G4S on the South Yorkshire Chilean Community website here

 

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SYMAAG  press release on Target Housing, G4S and Asylum Housing

 

Sheffield charity Housing association gets £2.5 m asylum housing contract from ‘shambles’ Olympics security company G4S.

 

Asylum groups claim they are ‘selling their principles to a prison guard company’

 

Target Housing Association a Sheffield based charitable housing association has shocked the charity and asylum rights world in Sheffield by becoming a subcontractor for asylum housing for Olympics security firm G4S the world’s largest security corporation.

 

G4S has already taxpayer funded contracts worth hundreds of millions pounds in managing privatised prisons, police and court services as well as its core business of providing security personnel – a business now in tatters after its Olympics fiasco.

 

For asylum seekers in asylum housing in Sheffield  G4S is notorious as managing detention centres and escort services for people being deported. The company has been heavily criticised by Parliamentary committees and inspectors for its methods. Since January South Yorkshire campaigners have been organising to stop the G4S contract moving hundreds of people and family out of council contracted properties  under the slogan coined by one Sheffield Zimbabwean asylum, seeker. ‘I do not want a prison guard as my landlord’

 

Campaigners claim Target, desperate for contracts to survive, is collaborating with G4S in a cut price deal which means Target senior staff on the asylum contract will be paid the same £8 an hour that G4S guards at the Olympics are getting. Services to asylum seeker families will be cut back to cut costs.

 

Asylum rights group SYMAAG say Target is desperately offering itself as a fig leaf to G4S to cover up the fact that G4S has no experience in managing housing, whereas Target up to now has been respected as providing housing and services for ex offenders on local council contracts in South Yorkshire.

 

As John Grayson a researcher for SYMAAG and Sheffield Hallam University puts it

‘Target should pull out of the contract now, we are witnessing the same shambolic state of affairs in asylum housing as we saw in the Olympics contract. Target claim to have accommodation for 120 people in family groups in South Yorkshire, yet last week the UK Border Agency and G4S sent a Sheffield family 100 miles to private rented housing in Stockton on Tees under the new contracts. Asylum families in Barnsley are being told they could be sent to Newcastle– totally tearing up assurances G4S has given to campaigners and politicians over the past months. The longer Target stay on the contract the more their reputation will be shredded along with that of G4S’

 

 

Media coverage of Target’s deal with G4S:

  • Social Housing website 24 Dash carried a piece critical of Target’s decision here
  • Target CEO defends their decision here
  • SYMAAG’s John Grayson analyses Target’s role in privatising asylum housing here

 

UKBA: “No evidence that returnees to DRC are at risk”

Latest news: UKBA claim there is “no evidence to substantiate the allegations that returnees to the DRC are at risk” (UKBA Chief Executive Rob Whiteman in a letter to Paul Blomfield MP 31/7/12.) See Returns to DRC letter from Whiteman to Paul Blomfield MP.

This claim that there is “no evidence” that people deported to the DRC are at risk will come as a surprise to most Congolese people who have been deported to the DRC as it will to the authors of the “Unsafe Return” report which gave detailed evidence of the persecution which followed their forced return.

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At the SYMAAG AGM on May 1st Catherine Ramos from the Justice First group summarised her report “Unsafe Return”. The report documented the abuses experienced by Congolese people during and after their forced deportation to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from the UK.

 

Now Catherine has inspired a number of MPs to put forward a parliamentary motion opposing further deportations to the DRC on the basis of the evidence in the “Unsafe Return” report.

 

Catherine says “Please contact your MP urgently asking them to sign this Early Day Motion (EDM).  Often MPs are not aware of EDMs, perhaps they could be asked to ensure their colleagues know of this one.” Many MPs, both Labour and Liberal Democrat have told us that they support asylum rights. Contact your MP and ask them to stick to their pledge. You can find their contact details here.

 We successfully stopped Djoly’s deportation to the DRC in 2011

 

This attempt to stop future deportations to the DRC comes after a campaign to stop a deportation charter flight to a number of African countries. Following intensive work between Detention Action and Duncan Lewis solicitors, at least 7 people from DR Congo were taken off the multi-detstination charter flight which departed 5 July due to last minute injunctions. The judge who granted the injunctions commented that because the Congolese ambassador had recently said at a meeting in parliament that people who were sent back to DRC should be punished, returns should be halted until this has been investigated.