Below we reproduce a letter signed by academics in the Yorkshire region expressing concerns over the awarding of a housing contract to a private company.
As researchers and university teachers in the fields of housing and immigration in the Yorkshire region we oppose the plans of the Coalition government, through the UK Border Agency (UKBA), to award national contracts of around £135 million for managing asylum seeker social housing to the three multinational security companies who manage most immigration detention centres, and forcible deportations in the UK; G4S, Serco, and Reliance.
In Yorkshire the preferred bidder is G4S and the UKBA is at present checking ‘due diligence’ matters before contracts are signed at the end of February. G4S is not of course a social landlord.
G4S are perhaps known to many people in Yorkshire as the firm who read gas and electricity meters, empty cash machines, and through their ‘events arm’ in Sheffield police local sporting and other events.
In fact they are the world’s largest private security firm – they have been responsible for ‘security’ at Doncaster airport but also responsible for ‘security’ at Baghdad airport, and for guarding diplomats at Kabul airport and throughout Afghanistan. They have been awarded a contract worth £100 million for the London Olympics running security inside the Olympic park providing 10,000 guards to patrol venues. G4S have a close link to police and prisons. In 2011 they managed 675 court and police station cells, four detention centres for asylum seekers and since the summer of 2011 they manage the brand new Cedars ‘family friendly’ detention centre which is called a ‘pre-departure accommodation centre’ in Pease Pottage where families are forcibly held for up to a week prior to enforced removal by the UKBA.
UKBA maintain that the new asylum social housing contracts are being awarded to partners with a proven track record. In the case of G4S they lost the contract to supply escorts in forcible deportations after the death of an Angolan deportee – three G4S guards face criminal charges and the company may yet face corporate manslaughter charges. In 2010 there were a record 773 complaints lodged against G4S by detainees including 48 claims of assault. Three complaints of assault and two of racism were upheld. G4S were allowed to investigate themselves under UKBA ‘scrutiny’.
G4S remarkably claim that they will ‘improve cohesion’ by managing the contracts. 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 are only allowed tenancies if they are in the process of applying for or appealing cases for sanctuary. They 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 new contracts will mean the privatisation of the whole of social housing available to asylum seekers. Local authorities in Yorkshire still have a large role in delivering contracts and asylum seekers throughout the region prefer their experience with councils and housing associations compared to the performance of private landlord companies already providing some housing. 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 the proposed private managing landlord in Yorkshire are a mega international corporation – the second largest private employer in the world and the largest employer quoted on the British Stock Exchange. They already (2011) have British government contracts worth around £600 million. G4S chief executive Nick Buckles, according to the Annual Report, gets an annual salary and shares worth £2.4 million and a possible annual bonus of £1.2 million. His pension pot is at present worth £7 million. 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.
- John Grayson – Independent Researcher, AdEd Knowledge Company and Sheffield Hallam University
- Dr Quintin Bradley – Associate Senior Lecturer, Housing Studies, School of the Built Environment & Engineering Leeds Metropolitan University
- Julia Brooke – PhD student, Human and Health Sciences, The University of Huddersfield
- Dr Rionach Casey – Senior Lecturer in Housing Studies, Sheffield Hallam University
- Dr Cristina Cerulli – Lecturer School of Architecture, University of Sheffield
- Charlie Cooper – Senior Lecturer, Hull University
- Professor Gary Craig – Professor of Community Development and Social Justice, Centre for Social Justice and Community Action, University of Durham
- Rachael Dobson – Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds
- Dr Max Farrar – Emeritus Professor, Leeds Metropolitan University
- Jenny Fortune – Senior Lecturer Architecture and Planning, Sheffield Hallam University
- Dr David Haigh – Senior Lecturer Planning, Housing and Human Geography, Faculty of Arts, Environment and Technology, Leeds Metropolitan University
- Professor Malcolm Harrison – Emeritus Professor Housing and Social Policy, University of Leeds
- Dr Stuart Hodkinson – School of Geography, University of Leeds
- Professor Caroline Hunter – York Law School, University of York
- Professor Adele Jones – Professor of Childhood Studies, University of Huddersfield
- Martin Jones – Lecturer in International Human Rights Law, Centre for Applied Human Rights and the York Law School, University of York
- Dr Florian Kossak – Lecturer,School of Architecture, University of Sheffield
- Dr Hannah Lewis – Research Fellow, School of Geography, University of Leeds
- Dr Simon Parker – Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of York, Coordinator End Child Detention Now
- Professor Doina Petrescu – Head of Graduate programme, School of Architecture, University of Sheffield
- Jane Petrie – Lecturer in Housing Law, Sheffield Hallam University
- Dr Kesia Reeve – Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University
- Professor Flora Samuel – Head of School of Architecture, University of Sheffield
- Dr Tatjana Schneider – Senior Lecturer School of Architecture, University of Sheffield
- Ala Sirriyeh – Lecturer in Sociology, School of Social and International Studies, University of Bradford
- Kate Smith – PhD student, Human and Health Sciences, The University of Huddersfield
- Professor Fionn Stevenson – School of Architecture, University of Sheffield
- Dr Louise Waite – Senior Lecturer in Human Geography School of Geography, University of Leeds
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