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, 17 April 2012

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."

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