Olympics Security - Home Affairs Committee Contents




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 website www.irr.org.uk.

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 landlord".


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 the Humber).

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. (5)

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.


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 announced

"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.) (7)

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 continued—an 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)


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 worse—it 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.


John Grayson
Independent researcher SYMAAG (South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group), and Sheffield Hallam University

August 2012


1. See John Grayson on Open Democracy on 30 May. Mark Salsbury on 24 Dash also covered this story. http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2012-06-01-Mother-and-baby-dumped-in-unsuitable-flat-by-Border-Agency-subcontractor

2. E-mail from COMPASS UKBA to John Grayson 13 June 2012.

3. E-mail from COMPASS UKBA to John Grayson on 1 August 2012.

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 school?
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 schools.

<?oasys [pf10p0] ?>6. The Barnsley MBC letter of 4 July stated:

"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.

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Prepared 25 October 2012