Fears over firm’s role in asylum seekers’ housing

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From: John Grayson, Independent Researcher, AdEd Knowledge Company and Sheffield Hallam University, and a further 25 academics, researchers and university teachers.

AS researchers and university teachers in the fields of housing and immigration in the Yorkshire region, we oppose the plans of the the UK Border Agency to allocate contracts managing asylum seeker housing to security companies who manage immigration detention centres, and forcible deportations in the UK. In Yorkshire, the preferred bidder is G4S and contracts could be signed by the end of February. G4S has no experience of housing management.

G4S are often seen as the firm who read gas and electricity meters, and empty cash machines – in fact, they are the world’s largest private security firm.

They have been awarded a contract of £100m for the London Olympics running security inside the Olympic park providing 10,000 guards to patrol venues.

They managed in 2011 675 court and police station cells, and four detention centres for asylum seekers.

UKBA maintain that the housing contracts are going to partners with a proven track record. In the case of G4S, they lost the UKBA contract to supply escorts in forcible deportations after the death of an Angolan deportee. Asylum seeker tenants already feel intimidated and threatened by the prospect of G4S as their managing landlords.

The new contracts will mean the privatisation of the whole of asylum seeker housing. Some local authorities in Yorkshire still have a role in delivering contracts. If the councils lose the contracts, it will mean hundreds of families dispersed to private landlords often miles away from childrens’ schools or family doctors.

G4S chief executive Nick Buckles, according to the Annual Report, gets an annual salary and shares worth £2.4m and a possible annual bonus of £1.2m. His pension pot is at present worth £7m.

We believe few people in Yorkshire if they were told would believe their taxpayers’ money should be awarded to such a company to manage asylum seeker housing.