Friday, 28 April 2017

Company struggles to find housing for asylum seekers after winning UK Border Agency contracts

G4S leaves refugees in limbo

Hundreds of asylum seekers face uncertain futures because a private company is struggling to rehouse them.

Groups working with refugees fear they could be pushed into sub-standard homes or moved miles from their communities as a result.

G4S took over asylum accommodation contracts from social landlords in the north of England in June. Sub-contractors for the security firm must find new homes for 1,200 asylum seekers currently housed by councils in Yorkshire and Humberside by 2 November.

G4S was expected to start moving asylum seekers in June but most are still living in council properties.

A spokesperson for Kirklees Council said its contract had been extended from September to October as a result of the difficulties. ‘We understand that the sub-contractors are finding it difficult to procure accommodation and the council has been asked to continue to provide assistance until the end of October.’

G4S insists it will move everyone by 2 November and that it is being ‘very careful’ about properties. The problem has raised questions about the government’s policy of outsourcing asylum contracts to the private sector, and causes more embarrassment for G4S, which failed to deliver fully on an Olympic security contract.

The problems experienced by G4S are understood to have been exacerbated as a result of it dropping sub-contractor United Property Management in June over ‘contractual issues’. UPM had its own properties, but new sub-contractors Mantel, Live Management Group and Cascade are yet to find enough homes in some areas, particularly in Yorkshire.

Deborah Harris, chief operating officer at charity the Refugee Council, expressed concern about the situation. ‘We are worried by the delays caused by changing housing providers in the area which have meant people are not being moved within the expected time frames,’ she said.

The Kirklees Council spokesperson added that just one family of its 260 asylum seekers has been moved to a new provider so far.

Ismah Naseem, advice worker from charity Northern Refugee Centre, said she feared standards of accommodation will drop due to the time constraints involved.

G4S was one of three firms awarded contracts by the UK Border Agency for housing asylum seekers earlier this year. The UKBA said the value of the six contracts over the six years would be around £620 million, making a saving of £150 million for the agency over the life of the contracts.

A G4S spokesperson denied the company was experiencing difficulty and said it was on course to re-house everyone by 2 November.

A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: ‘Where people do need to move, proper consideration will be given to any special requirements to ensure minimum disruption.’

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