03 February 2012

Outcry as UK immigration department privatises asylum seekers’ housing

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The Government's intention to hand over the handling of temporary housing facilities for people applying for a UK visa or awaiting asylum to security firm G4S has caused concern among several academics.

UK visa

The announcement that security company G4S will be handling asylum seeker housing facilities has raised concerns.

G4S, the second largest private sector employer in the world, already handles several aspects of the UK immigration department including forced deportations and the handling of several detention centres.

The company, which also handles security at prisons, airports and stadiums, is now set to secure part of a £135 million contract to manage social housing facilities in and around Yorkshire.

However, local academics have written an open letter to the Government, pleading with them to reconsider granting the contract to "prison guard" company G4S.

"Asylum seeker tenants already feel intimidated and threatened by the prospect of prison guard companies being installed as their managing landlords. Asylum seekers in social housing are fleeing from persecution and violence and can only have tenancies if they are in the process of applying for or appealing cases for sanctuary."

The letter also raised concerns about G4S's history of detaining asylum seekers with almost 800 complains, including 48 of assault, lodged against them in 2010.

"[Asylum seekers] are not criminals who deserve prison guards as their landlords but families and individuals claiming their rights under international treaties signed by the UK on our behalf."

The letter, signed by 28 academics from across the county, is not the only measure being taken, with plans for two demonstrations planned for February and March.

John Grayson, a signatory of the letter from Sheffield Hallam University, said "These are not failed asylum seekers who should go home."

Stuart Crosthwaite from the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group said "The only possible reason that we can see for G4S winning this contract is by undercutting current housing providers."

A spokesperson for the UK Border Agency said the contracts will provide adequate care and save an estimated £150 million over the seven year period of the contract.

A spokesperson for G4S said:

"We take the welfare of the people in our care very seriously. As with other public sector contracts we run, we will be delivering services entirely thought a supply chain of experienced housing providers, which includes local private and voluntary sector housing organisations.

"Our focus will be to ensure that asylum seekers can be integrated into local communities and into housing which is safe, sanitary and fit for purpose."

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people apply for a UK visa with the British high commission

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