BRIEFING FOR M.P.S ON THE HOME AFFAIRS SELECT
COMMITTEE HEARINGS ON G4S ON
11 SEPTEMBER 2012
ON G4S AND
Members may remember that the campaign against G4S
privatising humanitarian asylum housing in Yorkshire and the Humber
was launched in January 2012 by a coalition of asylum rights charities
and voluntary organisations in Sheffield and South Yorkshire,
supported by a range of senior academics across Yorkshire universities.
The G4S asylum housing campaign has been reported
by the Yorkshire regional and local press, the housing press eg
Inside Housing and www.24Dash.com; the Guardian, Financial Times
and the Independent. There are a range of articles and news items
on www.OpenDemocracy.net and on the Institute of Race Relations
The campaign is comprehensively reported on the South
Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group website www.symaag.org.uk.
The mobilisation of asylum rights groups and academics
against the G4S contract was as a result of sheer outrage that
the world's largest security company, notorious for its poor management
of asylum detention centres and whose escort staff witnessed the
death of Jimmy Mubenga an Angolan man in 2010, should be able
to privatise humanitarian council asylum housing in Yorkshire,
with its effects on asylum seekers. As one Sheffield asylum seeker
from Zimbabwe put it "I do not want a prison guard as my
The contracts privatising humanitarian housing in
Yorkshire and the North East, awarded to G4S and private housing
company UPM, were scheduled for signing at the end of February
2012.They were eventually signed towards the end of March, but
UKBA and G4S were only able to officially announce the start of
the contracts on 18 June.
One of the main reasons for this was the fact that
G4S had to dump UPM after it was exposed, sending an asylum seeker
mother and ill baby 40 miles from Bradford to Doncaster and leaving
them in a slum flat for six weeks. The UKBA inspectors had condemned
the flat after two weeks. Campaigners and Doncaster Council childrens'
services managed to intervene and get them back to Bradford. (1)
Without UPM, G4S was faced with the fact that, as
academics had pointed out in February, in Yorkshire and the Humber
there simply was not a cheap Private Rented Sector which would
provide enough acceptable housing for the 1,200 or so asylum seekers
moved from the asylum council housing, presently provided by Yorkshire
councils. Yorkshire is unique in having well over half of its
asylum housing still provided, and administered as humanitarian
housing by local councils.
G4S announced on 18 June that it now had new delivery
partners. Mantel a commercial property company, with no experience
of asylum housing, who have subsequently played no part in the
contract, Live Management Group a private company only registered
in January 2012 with no track record of any kind. Cascade Housing,
who are operating in West Yorkshire, had in the past actually
lost small asylum housing contracts with both UPM and Kirklees
council, for poor performance. In Sheffield, Hull and Derby G4S
has bought in a small housing association, Target Housing, who
in the past had worked only with ex-offenders. Target is a charitable
housing association and there has been a local campaign in Sheffield
against them buying into a G4S contract.
The "new delivery model" which is meant
to save the UKBA £150 million on the total national asylum
housing contract, at least in Yorkshire, has been chaotic and
incompetent. The asylum contract's only credible housing expert
Andrew Gray (a former president of the Chartered Institute of
Housing) who headed up the contract for G4S "has been given
a new role". Meanwhile a whole range of commitments have
been torn up.
Claire Dale, UKBA, SEO for Operations, Asylum Support
and Compliance in West Yorkshire admitted on 26 July in an e-mail
to voluntary organisations.
"As with all changes, we are experiencing some
operational issues, particularly with regard to the availability
of accommodation in the south of the region." (ie Yorks and
These "operational issues" have meant that
at each stage commitments have been broken, safeguards ignored.
For instance on 13 June when rumours were circulating
amongst asylum seekers in Leeds about moves to Newcastle and the
North East, Anita Bell Project Manager for COMPASS UKBA in Yorks
and the Humber and the North East stated bluntly in a joint reply
from UKBA and G4S that "There is no intention during transition
to re-house individuals currently residing in Yorkshire &
Humberside to the North East." (2)
On 1 August Anita Bell stated that "currently
all individuals affected by transition have been kept in their
immediate locality." (3)
In fact on 4 July the Barnsley Council asylum team
wrote to a family with two school age children who had been in
a council house for five years waiting for a resolution of their
asylum claim, warning them of a move to new accommodation "which
could be outside Barnsley". (4) The family were then
told officially that the move could be to Hull (72 miles away),
or Newcastle (120 miles away). This was despite earlier regional
commitments not to disrupt the education of school age children.
On Tuesday 24 July a family of two adults and
a one year old were moved 100 miles from Sheffield to Stockton
on Tees in the North East. The move was
witnessed by Sheffield volunteers. Another single asylum seeker
refused to move to Stockton on the same day.
A G4S INSULTONLY
G4S, who won the transport contract for Yorkshire,
as well as asylum housing, at first refused to transport anything
other than "personal items". (5) In Barnsley this was
described as "two bags each" to families living in council
accommodation for up to seven years. Larger furniture etc would
have to be moved at the family's expense and no storage facilities
were available. (6)
Campaigners protested to the UKBA about this G4S
insult, to already stressed and traumatised families and individuals.
On 1 August G4S apparently agreed a complete U-turn and the UKBA
"G4S are providing the transport element
of transition and in order to facilitate SU cooperation G4S will,
except in exceptional circumstances, try to accommodate an individual's
excess luggage either as part of the same journey, or if necessary
storing it safely at the point of departure until it can be transported
to join the individual at a later date." (SU refers to Service
Users ie asylum seeker families and individuals.)
G4S reneged on this agreement as soon as the moves
to beat the school holidays deadline began. On Tuesday 28 August
a lone mother with a six weeks old baby was moved from Initial
Accommodation in Barnsley to COMPASS contract accommodation in
Rotherham and allowed only two bags of possessions. She could
not take food for herself she was only given space for food for
her baby. Protests to G4S elicited the response that they were
ignoring UKBA instructions and refusing to transport more than
two bags. They also said on 28 August there were potentially 40
moves with such a restrictive policy.
The chaos has continuedan asylum seeker family
with four children, already in a poor standard, private landlord
three bedroom house, were threatened with a move to a two bedroomed
house, in an even worse condition, by G4S and Live Management
in Sheffield. Only intervention by campaigners, and the threat
of legal action stopped the move on 18 August.
Delays have turned to paralysis. The shortage of
suitable accommodation has meant that the moves of families from
council accommodation has been a trickle or has simply not happened
in the school holidays, as scheduled, to avoid disruption to childrens'
education. UKBA and G4S are treating lone mothers and their babies
as "single" and allocating one room single person accommodation
(with kitchen and bathroom separate), presumably because in the
PRS one room accommodation is moee norm in Kirklees one family
has moved from the council out of 260 persons still in their accommodation.
(8) No family moves have been achieved in Sheffield, only one
reported in Barnsley during the school holidays. In Barnsley where
the council contract runs to 12 November the Council is assuming
further moves will be postponed to half term holidays. (9)
<?oasys [pf10p0] ?>REVERSING
In a bizarre twist to the asylum housing saga, G4S
are now so desperate that they are trying to lease back and manage,
with sitting tenants, the very council accommodation privatised
by the company and the UKBA in the new contracts. This process
they are calling "novation". It has worked with a few
of the small landlord properties previously managed by UPM but
public sector housing is completely different.
It has to be remembered that in Yorkshire and the
Humber the councils put in bids to retain the asylum housing contracts
in 2011. The G4S bid with UPM was lower and G4S won the contract.
Now in Kirklees the council has rejected two financial
bids, from G4S, to take over council housing with sitting asylum
seeker tenants. In Bradford Cascade claim to have done a deal
with InCommunities (a transfer housing association which included
asylum housing when transferring council housing). So far there
are no reported bids to Barnsley or Sheffield councils.
Campaigners and housing academics believe there are
real legal problems for councils who buy in to the G4S contract.
Even with a transfer housing association, social housing carries
large subsidies from the taxpayer, and cannot simply be contracted
to a for-profit private company like G4S. Any transfer of council
housing stock to G4S would probably also be subject to consultation
and/or ballots of existing council tenants.
It is unlikely to happen in any event. Yorkshire
asylum team staffs have refused to be "TUPE'd" over
to G4S, showing their distaste for the record of the security
company in managing asylum detention centres, and providing escort
services. In South Yorkshire councillors have actually joined
the campaigning against the G4S contract.
COMPASS UKBA in Yorkshire and the Humber and the
North East have already awarded approximately £120 million
of public taxpayers money to G4S for asylum housing over the next
few years. They are now agreeing to G4S spending public money
on attempting to buy up council contracts which the UKBA had refused
to renew, because they were too expensive. Perhaps the NAO (National
Audit Office) will have a view on whether these proposed ridiculous
contract arrangements are either lawful or "value for money".
The chaos in the G4S asylum housing contract in Yorkshire
has all the hallmarks of the "shambles" in the G4S Olympics
contract. This chaos is perhaps even worseit is having
a direct and distressing effect on real people, on the lives and
well being of already vulnerable and traumatised asylum seeker
individuals and families.
G4S in the "asylum markets" it boasts of
has now almost an unhealthy even sinister near monopoly in some
parts of the sector. An asylum seeker can be processed, detained,
transported, housed, and deported by G4S. As they are deported
they will change planes in France or Germany with G4S staff on
escort contracts there. If they are deported to Iraq or Afghanistan
they might well meet G4S airport security there.
The UKBA is very secretive about its contracts with
G4S IT HAS SO FAR REFUSED TO PUBLISH THE COMPASS CONTRACT IN RESPONSE
TO FOI REQUESTS SAYING IT WILL PUBLISH "SOON" PERHAPS
THE HOME AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE COULD MAKE THIS "NOW".
Independent researcher SYMAAG (South Yorkshire
Migration and Asylum Action Group), and Sheffield Hallam University
1. See John Grayson on Open Democracy on 30 May.
Mark Salsbury on 24 Dash also covered this story.
2. E-mail from COMPASS UKBA to John Grayson 13 June
3. E-mail from COMPASS UKBA to John Grayson on 1
4. Letter from Project Manager of Barnsley MBC Asylum
Team to asylum housing tenants 4 July 2012.
5. The COMPASS UKBA Corporate Partners FAQ issued
in March at the start of the contract stated:
What will happen to families with children at
Our aim is to minimise these moves as
much as possible and Regional Directors will authorise any moves
that involve children. Rules on the movement of children have
been agreed with the Minister for Immigration. UK Border Agency's
preferred approach is for moves involving children to be carried
out over the summer holidays to minimise the impact of changing
?>6. The Barnsley MBC letter of 4
"The new company have informed us that they
will not move large items of your furniture. We will be unable
to store such items for you. You should make your own arrangements
to move these items on the day you travel."
7. COMPASS UKBA e-mail to John Grayson 1 August 2012.
8. See Emily Twinch "Inside Housing" Friday
24 August 2012 and the "Independent" article on Saturday
25 August 2012 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/homes-for-asylumseekers-present-new-crisis-for-g4s-8079557.html
9. Statement from Barnsley MBC Asylum Team Wednesday
15 August 2012.