Thursday, 17 April 2014

Concern as deadline looms and firm fails to find private accommodation

G4S has 10 days left to rehouse 349 people

G4S has 10 days to find new homes for at least 349 asylum seekers in the north of England to avoid breaking the terms of its contract with the UK Border Agency.

The contractor promised to rehouse asylum seekers in Yorkshire and Humberside by 12 November after outbidding councils in the region which had provided the service previously.

Leeds Council is still housing 167 people while Kirklees Council is housing 182. It is understood Barnsley Council is still housing some of its 258 asylum seekers.

The delays have sparked fears among groups working with asylum seekers that hundreds of people could be pushed into poor-quality housing as G4S rushes to find private sector accommodation for them.

The UKBA awarded G4S the contract in March. The value of the six contracts awarded to three firms over six years is £620 million.

Inside Housing reported in August the security firm was struggling to find private rented sector accommodation in Yorkshire. At the time, G4S said the deadline for moving people was 2 November. It now says it has until 12 November.

A spokesperson for Kirklees Council said it views ‘the current situation with extreme concern’.

G4S has moved all asylum seekers being housed in 76 Sheffield Council homes. But groups working with asylum seekers in Yorkshire say some of these individuals have been moved into poor-quality housing and away from the area.

Campaigner John Grayson said: ‘They are moving people into very poor properties and have moved them in a very disorganised and stressful way.’

Human rights law firm Public Interest Lawyers plans to lodge two judicial reviews to stop families being moved far away and into unsuitable accommodation.

G4S is also contracted to house asylum seekers in the midlands. Birmingham-based charity Asylum Support and Immigration Resource Team described a case in which a 71-year-old woman spent six hours in a van with all male staff who did not speak her language and no food and water, before being returned to the original property. G4S said it will investigate the matter.

A spokesperson for G4S said: ‘We continue to work with UK Border Agency and local partners, including local authorities, to support people who need to be re-housed through this change of contract.’

A spokesperson for UKBA said: ‘We expect the new accommodation providers to fulfil the terms of the contract.’

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