G4S is the UK's biggest private security company, with its government contracts alone worth over £600 million. Responsible for security services, managing detention centres, prisons, and 675 court and police station holding cells, G4S have also just been granted the £100 million contract for providing 10,000 security guards for the upcoming olympics.

Whilst G4S still seem to be government favourites, their record is far from spotless. The firm lost their previous 'forcible deportation' contract last September after receiving 773 complaints of abuse – both verbal and physical. The final straw came with the death of Jimmy Mubenga in October 2010, an Angolan asylum seeker who died as a result of his forced deportation by G4S guards. Two of the guards are on bail facing criminal charges, whilst G4S is still waiting to hear whether they are to face corporate manslaughter charges.

Now, asylum seekers in Yorkshire and Humberside are expected to accept this multi-national, money-hungry, security company as their landlords.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

G4S: the public face of private police

Companies like G4S are often described as the invisible authorities behind hundreds of our so called social services. The fact that a care home is run by A4E, a detention centre is managed by Serco or that your local police authority is a 'joint-venuture' with multi-national corporation G4S, is not advertised as such; it's only there when you go looking.

At least that's how it's been for years. Yet in the words of Claire Sambrook, writing brilliantly for Open Democracy, now 'Corporate Power stamps its brand on British Policing'; Lincolnshire police uniforms now find their epaulettes branded by the brazen red, white and black of the G4S logo. According to a BBC report, the uniforms are to be worn by 200 staff, including front counter staff at police stations. We're seeing a "strategic partnership" with G4S firmly in control.

On the first of April 2012, 540 civilian Lincolnshire police workers turned into employees of G4S, the largest security company in the UK. Alongside managing frontline counter service, G4S employees will run the crime management bureau, the central ticket office and collisions unit, the criminal justice unit, the resource management unit and firearms licensing. This is hardy the back-room presence that the government claimed private contractors would have within the police. Put succinctly by Sambrook:
As for the corporate statement, "There are no plans to introduce the dual logo elsewhere," it is a warning. It does not come from the government, or from a Minister speaking to Parliament. The sentence carries a huge, silent word at the end: "yet". 
Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation, immdiately after acknowledging that changing the uniforms will have an adverse effect on the visual presence of warranted officers, made the following statement:
"G4S aren't doing anything wrong. They are doing what any private company would want to do, which is make profit and expand their organisation." 
I'm not sure whether I could ever agree with that.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against G4S

Palestinian civil society and human rights organisations mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day with call for action against Israeli prison contractor G4S.

Today, on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, we the undersigned Palestinian civil society and human rights organisations salute all Palestinian political prisoners, especially those engaging in brave civil disobedience through ongoing hunger strikes in protest to the ongoing violations of human rights and international law. Emphasizing imprisonment as a critical component of Israel’s system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid practiced against the Palestinian people, we call for intensifying the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to target corporations profiting directly from the Israeli prison system. In particular, we call for action to be taken to hold to account G4S, the world’s largest international security corporation, which helps to maintain and profit from Israel’s prison system [1], for its complicity with Israeli violations of international law.
Imprisonment of Palestinians is a form of Israeli institutionalized violence encompassing all stages of the incarceration process. Palestinian political prisoners face systematic torture and ill-treatment during their arrest and detention at the hands of the Israeli military and are frequently and unjustifiably denied family and lawyer visits. Wide-ranging and collective punishments, including prolonged periods of isolation, attacks on prisoners by special military forces and denying access to education are used against Palestinian prisoners in an attempt to suppress any form of civil disobedience within the prisons. As of April 2012, there were 4,610 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons, including 203 child prisoners, 6 female prisoners and 27 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. 322 Palestinians are currently held in administrative detention, without charge or trial.[2]
The severity of injustice and abuse suffered by Palestinian political prisoners has been the drive for many prisoners to begin hunger strikes at different intervals in protest against harsh prison conditions, torture and ill treatment and Israel’s arbitrary use of administrative detention. While the recent hunger strikes of Khader Adnan, who ended his hunger strike after 66 days, and Hana Shalabi, who ended her hunger strike after 43 days, resulted in individual agreements, Israel and the Israeli Prison Service’s policies therein remain unchanged and are now aimed at containing the hungers strikers through punitive measures as well as cutting off their contact with lawyers and family. Today, an estimate of over 1,000 Palestinian political prisoners are reported to have joined in an open hunger strike in addition to at least 8 others already engaged in an open hunger strike, including Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, on hunger strike since 29 February 2012.
In light of this increasing campaign of civil disobedience from within the prisons, we demand accountability for all corporations that both enable and directly profit from Israel’s continued violations of Palestinian prisoners’ rights being committed with impunity. Specifically, we call for action to hold to account G4S, the British-Danish security company whose Israeli subsidiary signed a contract in 2007 with the Israeli Prison Authority to provide security systems for major Israeli prisons.[3] G4S provided systems for the Ketziot and Megiddo prisons, which hold Palestinian political prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory inside Israel in contravention of international law.[4] The company also provided equipment for Ofer prison, located in the occupied West Bank, and for Kishon and Moskobiyyeh detention facilities, at which human rights organisations have documented systematic torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including child prisoners.[5] G4S continues to provide equipment to Israeli prisons.[6]
Moreover, G4S is involved in other aspects of the Israeli apartheid and occupation regime: it has provided equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank that form part of the route of Israel’s illegal Wall and to the terminals isolating the occupied territory of Gaza. G4S has also signed contracts for equipment and services for the West Bank Israeli Police headquarters and to private businesses based in illegal Israeli settlements.[7] A panel of legal experts concluded that G4S may be criminally liable for its activities in support of Israel’s illegal Wall and other violations of international law.[8]
We welcome the news that the European Union has announced that it has not renewed its contract for security services with G4S [9] following pressure from groups campaigning for Palestinian rights, and salute the previous decision of the Edinburgh University Student Association to block its contract with G4S.[10] We call upon other public and civil society institutions and also on private companies to follow suit and end their relationships with this company that acts in service of Israeli apartheid and other violations of international law. We demand that the Palestinian leadership bans G4S from private and public tenders, and ask for the strict application of the boycott legislation in the Arab world against companies cooperating with the Israeli prison system.
We also note that G4S is being actively opposed by other civil society groups elsewhere in the world for its role in controversial deportation and imprisonment regimes, abuse of workers rights, violations of universal human rights standards and its involvement in the privatisation of public services. Let us work together to expose not only G4S, but also the roles of imprisonment and private security companies as political tools to silence and intimidate communities all over the world.
Amid hunger strikes and the highly publicized prisoner exchange deal in October, Palestinian prisoners’ issues have gained recent attention in international spheres. However, despite this increased focus and the criticisms of these practices by United Nations bodies, there has been no institutional changes made by Israel in regard to the human rights violations being committed against Palestinian political prisoners and detainees.[11] In an attempt to counter Israel’s unwillingness to change its policies and the lack of accountability for its countless human rights violations, alternative measures such as preventing participation by companies such as the G4S proves to be one of the few remaining effective steps towards pressuring Israel to comply with international law. It is time overdue to break this chain of international complicity.
Addameer Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association
Sahar Francis
General Director
Aldameer Association for Human Rights
Khalil Abu Shammala
General Director
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC)
Ismat Quzma
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
Issam Younis
General Director
Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
Najwa Darwish
General Director
Defence for Children International
Palestine Section
Rifat Kassis
General Director
Ensan Center for Human Rights and Democracy
Shawqi Issa
General Director
Hurryyat – Centre for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights
Helmi Al-araj
General Director
Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights
Issam Aruri
General Director
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies
Iyad Barghouti
General Director
The Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network
Allam Jarrar
Steering Committee Member
Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling
Maha Abu Dayyeh
General Director

G4S loses its contract with the European Parliament

The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP) is pleased to be able to mark Palestinian Prisoners Day by announcing that the European Union has declined to renew a contract with private security company G4S amidst concerns raised by MEPs and campaign groups about the role the company plays in equipping Israeli prisons in which Palestinian political prisoners are held in violation of international law.

G4S has provided security services to the buildings of the European Parliament since 2008 but the contract award notice (service contract 118611-2012) published on the EU official tenders’ website on April 13th shows that G4S hast lost its contract with the European Parliament.

In March 2011, a group of 28 Members of the European Parliament, including 8 MEPs from Denmark and 6 from the UK wrote a letter to former EU Parliament President Jerzy Buzek, demanding that the Parliament dropped G4S as the principal security contractor if G4S continued to provide security services to illegal Israeli settlements, checkpoints and Israeli prisons at which Palestinians are detained. Their demands were a response to investigations conducted by the Danish NGO DanWatch and a report made by the Israeli research project “Who Profits” which revealed and documented G4S’ implication in illegal activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

With the assistance of lawyers, campaigners from ECCP member organisations also raised the issue with various EU officials, in cooperation with Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Merton Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and the Waltham Forest Palestine Solidarity Campaign. G4S held a meeting for MEPs and EU officials in an attempt to deflect the criticisms but failed to provide sufficient guarantees that it would abandon all of its illegal activities.

The non-renewal of this contract with a company that is deeply complicit with Israeli violations of international law is a vital step towards ensuring that Israel and corporations comply with basic legal standards” said ECCP chairperson Pierre Galand.

We also salute and thank those MEPs that we are pleased to have worked alongside on this effective campaign.”

People of conscience across Europe are inspired by the new wave of peaceful resistance by Palestinian prisoners against routine mistreatment, torture and imprisonment without trial.”

Palestinian prisoners’ day this year takes place in the context of inspiring resistance and hunger strikes, including the high profile hunger strikes of Hana Shalabi and Khader Adnan, two Palestinians held by Israel without charge. Palestinian prisoners are set to engage with a new round of civil disobedience. Prisoners’ day is being marked with demonstrations and activities across Europe.

For more information on the Palestinian prisoners’ day see:

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Guardian covers asylum housing "super contracts"

Thanks to James Legge, national media have finally covered the shocking accommodation 'super-contracts' awarded to our favourites: G4S, Serco and Clearel (Reliance Ltd and Clearsprings Ltd).

Have a look at his brilliant Guardian article here.

First G4S, then Reliance...

"The poet, the artist, the sleuth - whoever sharpens our perception tends to be antisocial; rarely "well-adjusted," he cannot go along with currents or trends. A strange bond often exists among anti-social types in their power to see environments as they really are. This need to interfere, confront environments, with a certain anti-social power is manifest in the famous story, The Emperor's New Clothes. "Well-adjusted" courtiers, having vested interests, saw the emperor as beautifully appointed. The "anti-social" brat, unaccustomed to the old environment, clearly saw that the Emperor "ain't got nothin' on." The new environment was clearly visible to him."
 (Marshall McLuhan & Quentin Fiore, The Medium is the Massage, 1967)

Reliance Ltd, the company recently contracted to provide NASS accommodation in London and Wales (albeit in a new joint venture with Clearsprings Ltd to form Clearel Ltd), have been under the media spotlight this weekend. The Guardian's investigative journalism team published a series of articles that revealed a litany of abuse cases brought against the company since they took on the deportation and transportation contract that was lost by G4S in 2010. 

Deportees recorded instances of physical, emotional and psychological abuse, ranging from a general lack of respect to occurrences that bordered on simple assault. In the words of their own acting senior charter operation manager, Roy Stagg, "the company is dealing with something more cultural than isolated."

An internal memo leaked to the Guardian revealed the levels to which Reliance is aware of its own failings. The document simply states: 
"Is there actually a problem with our business? The consensus was: yes. Is this a company where women, ethnic minorities and those of diverse religions feel comfortable? Evidence would suggest: no."
This memo, circulated after the company was awarded the deportation and transportation contract, highlights a 'laddish' culture in which respect for other staff members, deportees and even management is critically low. The fact is that these working cultures do not appear out of nowhere. These practices clearly existed prior to the awarding of last years contract and this year's NASS accommodation contract, highlighting a certain 'decided ignorance' on behalf of the Home Office and UKBA. Referring back to Marshall McLuhan's quotation, "Well-adjusted" courtiers, having vested interests, saw the emperor as beautifully appointed."

The UKBA's response to these accusations of abuse, assault and mistreatment is hardly surprising: 
"In all but one of these cases, we have either received no complaint or have conducted a thorough investigation which has found allegations over the use of force were entirely without merit."
Yet, in a case followed by the Guardian's article, an individual who filed a case against Reliance for an alleged assault on a deportation flight back to Nepal had his injuries recorded at Yarl's Wood detention centre, after his flight was grounded. Here, we encounter another private security firm: Serco. Serco's medical team photographed wounds to the individual's wrist, forearms and neck, but the photographs were deemed insufficiently detailed to act as evidence.

Neither the UKBA or the Home Office want another Jimmy Mubenga case. The fact that their new contractors are racking up a similar record to their predecessors - G4S - doesn't seem to alter the government's rosy view of outsourcing critical aspects of the asylum process. Private companies easily evade accountability; remember that this memo was leaked, not published. Whilst the government and establishment continue to idolise the private sector, it takes the acts of "anti-social brats" to hold those appointed to account.

"The new environment was clearly visible to him."

Monday, 16 April 2012

A Golden Moment

Sometimes, jost sometimes we get good news and when it comes it is all the more satisfactory for being the product of joint efforts and hard work.  Those of us who target the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands have been actively promoting boycott divestment and sanctions on companies profiting from this occupation. G4s is one of the most notorious.  Thus it was with some surprise that when we went to Brussels to lobby on the EU-Israel treaty we discovered that G4S had the contract for security.  We made up our mind to challenge this and to demand that when their contract came up for renewal, it would be rejected.  It was a long uphill struggle but together with expert legal advice and with the support of sympathetic MEPs like Margarete Auken from the Danish Greens, and from activists throughout Europe, a contract which looked like a shoe in has been terminated.  We are now truly delighted with this.  So even the biggest sharks can sometimes get their come uppance.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

And so it begins...

As Serco are set for their November takeover of asylum seekers' social housing in Scotland, it has already been reported that 100 asylum seekers living in Glasgow have been told to leave their homes by previous contract holder, Y People.

Y People, formally known as YMCA Glasgow, was previously responsible for housing dispersed asylum seekers to Glasgow who are awaiting decision from the UKBA. Losing the huge housing contract to Serco in March, Y People has been forced to serve certain residents with eviction notices as many of their rental contracts are set to run out in May. 

This is a process we can expect to see replicated across the country. As the multinational corporations move in, thousands of asylum seekers will only been seen as a form of collateral damage rather than at the centre of service provision. Previous contract holders, still managing certain contracts whilst handing others over to Serco, G4S or Reliance Security, will be left in a complex state of limbo. In the words of Joe Connelly, Y People's Chief Executive, "We [Y People] have a contract extension until November, but we don't know what that means."As support networks are dismantled to pave the way for the full privatisation of asylum seekers' social housing, it would be naive to think that there will be no tangible victim. In the words of Michael Collins, of the Anti-Deportation Campaign, things are simple: "These people will become homeless and destitute."  

Whilst the contracts have been awarded to G4S, Serco and Reliance, no safety nor dignity has been secured for the thousands of asylum seekers that are forced into precarious lives in the UK. As the notorious A4E are the preferred bidders for the Equality and Human Rights Commission's helpline, multinational security companies scrap over new policing contracts and VirginCare start to provide community health services in Surrey, the rights of vulnerable individuals are becoming increasingly tertiary to government ideology and economic jargon. Placing critical service provision at the whims of the commercial marketplace once again reaffirms the government's zeal for profit over people; the yields of privatisation over public service.