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.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Bradford Families Facing Eviction

Thanks to another excellent article from John Grayson, the true nature of G4S and United Property Management is getting much needed exposure. Despite many promises of not moving school-age children until the summer holidays and keeping to established standards of housing provision, G4S' subcontractor United Property Management have already attempted to move a young asylum seeker and her 12 week old baby to a shockingly substandard flat in Doncaster. Unfortunately, it is not as if we hadn't been expecting something exactly like this to happen.

Campaigning groups are all too aware of United Property Management's notoriously bad record at providing suitable accommodation for asylum seekers. According to support agencies in Bradford, 35 people have already been removed from the city, yet their destinations are unknown. Dispersed miles away from their established networks of support, asylum seekers can simply fall off the radar and lose the crucial help they need.

Thanks to a loud campaign from activists in Sheffield and Bradford, the UKBA were forced to visit the flat in Doncaster and consequently declared the flat "contractually non-compliant" and "not suitable in its present state for mothers and babies." Whilst they claim to have ordered UPM to relocate the family, they still remain in the flat - with no cooker, table or chair - and 40 miles from what they used to call home.

In the words of John Grayson, "This is the new world of asylum seeker housing controlled by G4S, the worlds biggest security company." Fundamentally, this is the new world of asylum seeker housing controlled solely by financial markets, not critical service provision for those fleeing persecution.

For the full text of John Grayson's article, see OpenDemocracy.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

G4S News Update

G4S update // May 15 - 27th, 2012

G4S set to profit from Greece's economic crisis, Business Week, May 15th 2012: Like circling vultures, G4S are said to be monitoring the potential for new, lucrative cash-handling contracts in Greece as fears about the nation's withdrawal from the Euro continue to rise. 

Teresa May denies 'conflict of interest' claims in Lincolnshire Police deal, BBC, May 17th 2012: The validity of a new policing contract awarded to G4S has been put under pressure as a delegate at the Police Federation Conference asks the Home Secretary to clarify her decision to appoint Tom Winsor, a lawyer at White and Case, to conduct an independent review of policing policy whilst his parent law firm was negotiating the multi-million pound contract deal on behalf of G4S with Lincolnshire Police.

Libya's foreign ministry refuses licence to G4S, Libya Herald, May 27th 2012: Libya's post-revolutionary authorities have once again told G4S that they aren't welcome, after the security giants secured a deal with the EU to protect infrastructure. 

G4S blames organisers for spiralling security costs, Daily Telegraph, May 24th 2012: As the security costings for London's summer Olympics increase, G4S blame Olympic organisers for underestimating the true size of the contract. Apparently, G4S staff have also been told to 'smile' and 'avoid over-zealous conduct' during the games. 

Time might run out for Olympic security recruitmentFinancial Times, May 27th 2012: Mark Hamilton, the managing director of G4S' security personnel, fears that time may run out for Olympic security recruitment as 10,300 of the necessary 13,300 guards are still awaiting training. 

Thursday, 10 May 2012

City of Sanctuary, not Private Security

Today's Guardian Northerner blog again pushed the G4S housing takeover into the mainstream media spotlight. It's definitely worth a read, if only for the following shocking quotation from Sheffield Councillor Mick Rooney:
As a Cabinet Member I will enter into a working relationship with G4S without prejudice. I cannot and will not allow their past record to colour my relationship.
Such willing blindness to G4S' terrible reputation is frightening to say the least; so much for the 'proven track record' supposedly demanded from prospective bidders for these housing contracts. To stop a company who is still waiting to hear whether they will be charged with corporate manslaughter from housing asylum seekers in Yorkshire is hardly acting on prejudice, it is common sense.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Keeping an Eye on G4S

CorpWatch, a non-profit investigative journalism and research group, have recently published a brilliant overview of the privatisation of asylum housing in the UK. Reinforcing our concerns about G4S' capability of providing dignified, safe and secure housing for asylum seekers in the UK, CorpWatch's article (written by a London School of Economics masters student, Lily Smith) hammers the point home:

"Saving money means moving people to the cheapest housing and the cheapest housing is not going to be the best housing by any means,” says Stuart Crossthwaite, from South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group. “When people come here they deserve protection and that's why this country signed the refugee convention and its why Sheffield is a city of sanctuary." 
Unfortunately, the UK government and G4S seem to disagree.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Security firm G4S provides services to Israeli prisons, police and army

By Adri Nieuwhof (originally published here)

Screenshot of G4S Israel website, showing photos of Ofer “security” prison in the OPT (presentation of (November 2011)

British-Danish security firm G4S has been severely criticized for its operations in the occupied Palestinian territories and in prisons and detention centers in Israel, including those housing children and “administrative detainees” held without charge or trial.
On 17 April Palestinian organizations called for action against G4S for its role in Israeli prisons where Palestinian political prisoners from the occupied territories are held in contravention of international law.
The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre in London published Michael Deas’s report on the call and invited G4S to respond. G4S submitted an update with old statements that does not address the criticism of the provision of services to prisons in Israel. Meanwhile, about 2,000 Palestinian prisoners bellow out their ill-treatment in a mass hunger strike.
Who Profits - a research project of the Coalition of Women for Peace – has provided the information on G4S activities in Israel for the rejoinder below, including its extensive G4S report of March 2011.

Business as usual with private enterprises in settlements

Who Profits confirms that G4S provides security equipment and personnel to shops, supermarkets and businesses in the illegal settlements of Modi’in Illit, Ma’ale Adumim and Har Adar in the West Bank and in settlement neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem. Through its merger with Israeli security firm Aminut, G4S has incorporated security services to businesses in Barkan Industrial Zone in the West Bank. The continuation of Aminut’s business operations was announced on the website of G4S Israel.
Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and the annexation of East Jerusalem are illegal under international law. Numerous UN resolutions and the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Israel’s wall in the West Bank have confirmed that settlements violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention — which states that “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
Establishing businesses in the settlements entrenches the illegal settlements and may also lead to their growth. G4S assists this process by providing security services to the businesses concerned. Moreover, its action is discriminatory as services provided to the settlements cannot be used by Palestinians. G4S’s remark that “a number of contracts with private enterprises [in the West Bank] were not discriminatory or controversial” is therefore completely amiss.

Assistance to Israeli checkpoints

G4S Israel mentions its “homeland security activities” in a presentation of November 2011 (in Hebrew). The services include providing scanners to checkpoints in the “seam zone” and to Erez checkpoint in Gaza. The seam zone is located in the occupied territories between the green line — the 1949 armistice line between Israel as it was established in 1948 and the West Bank — and the wall. Who Profits ascertained that the checkpoints of Qalandia, Bethlehem and Irtah are included. The project has filed a request in the framework of the Israeli Freedom of Information Act to find out the full extent of G4S Israel’s services to checkpoints.
The system of checkpoints connected to the wall is designed to limit and control the movement of Palestinians within the West Bank. As such, the checkpoints serve Israeli settlement policies. The ICJ ruled that “the construction of the wall and its associated regime, by contributing to the demographic changes mentioned […] above, contravene Article 49, paragraph 6, of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” The “associated regime” of the wall includes the checkpoints. One can argue that by providing and servicing security equipment for the checkpoints, G4S Israel is facilitating breaches of the Geneva Convention.

Close ties with the Israeli police

There are close ties between G4S Israel and the Israeli police. G4S Israel mentions on its website that it is the sole provider of electronic security systems to the Israeli police. In its November 2011 presentation, the company confirms that it still provides security services to the Israeli police department in the West Bank. In addition, G4S Israel mentions that it provides access control systems, metal detection gates, public announcement systems, burglary detection systems, fire detection systems and building inspection systems to police stations inside Israel.
The ties between G4S and the Israeli police became even closer when - last year - the Policity group won a 25-year contract to build, operate and maintain the new Israeli police training center in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh. G4S owns 50 percent of Policity and will be the operating contractor of the project.
G4S must be aware of the instrumental role that the Israeli police play in implementing the country’s discriminatory and repressive laws, for example in the demolition of Palestinian property, the forcible eviction of Palestinians from their homes, the repression of protests against Israeli policies, the violent blocking of Palestinians from prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the shutting down of Palestinian media. By providing services to the Israeli police, G4S has sided with the force that tramples on basic human rights.

Assistance to the Israeli Prison Service

G4S Israel is deeply involved in Israeli prisons by providing security services to all jails run by the Israeli Prison Service, including the so-called “security prisons” inside Israel and in the West Bank. The Israeli authorities label Palestinian political prisoners as “security” prisoners and the prisons where they are held are therefore called “security prisons.”
For example, G4S installed the peripheral defense systems on the walls surrounding Ofer “security” prison in the occupied territories and it operates a central control room for the entire Ofer compound which houses a military court. G4S equipped Ketziot and Megiddo “security” prisons in Israel with their entire security systems. The G4S website clearly indicates that Ketziot prison holds “2,200 security prisoners.” The same source reveals that G4S provided the central control room for the entire security system in Megiddo “security” prison where over “1,200 security prisoners” are held.
In addition, G4S provides security services to Damon “security” prison, to the detention and interrogation facilities of Abu Kabir in Jaffa, to the “Russian Compound” in Jerusalem and to “Al-Jalameh” (Kishon) detention center in Haifa. Human rights organizations have collected evidence showing that Palestinian prisoners are regularly subjected to torture and ill-treatment in these facilities. Cell 36 of Al Jalame prison is one the cells where Palestinian children are locked in solitary confinement for days or even weeks, wrote The Guardian in January.

On Palestinian Prisoners Day - 17 April 2012 - families protested the detention of their relatives in Israeli jails. (Photo: Anne Paq - ActiveStills)
Israel systematically denies Palestinian political prisoners their basic rights, including the right to a fair trial and to protection from arbitrary detention which are enshrined in international law. At present, Israel holds over 300 Palestinians - including 27 lawmakers - in arbitrary detention, which is also known as administrative detention.
In addition, Israel is not allowed to transfer Palestinian prisoners from the occupied territories to prisons in Israel, because Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly prohibits this. Thousands of Palestinian prisoners are thus unlawfully held in prisons in Israel. By delivering essential security services to prisons in Israel, G4S is assisting Israel in these violations of international law.
In its response to Deas’s report, G4S keeps silent about its services to the Israeli Prison Service. It is obvious that the company has no intention to exit these contracts.

Legal advice to G4S criticized

Following fierce criticism of G4S involvement in the Israeli occupation, the company engaged Professor Hjalte Rasmussen to review its business in the West Bank and to provide a legal opinion. During a three-day trip to Israel and the West Bank, Rasmussen visited a number of banks and supermarkets in East Jerusalem, and a shopping mall in the settlement of Maale Adumim. He also collected information from G4S in London and Israel. Rasmussen did not visit Israeli prisons.
At the time, Dan Church Aid and Amnesty International Denmark expressed their discontent about the poor quality of Rasmussen’s report; the former described it as “shameful” because it contains so many errors. The Secretary General of Amnesty International Denmark, Lars Normann Jorgensen, said that “a case as serious as this one requires more thorough observations in the areas concerned than Hjalte Rasmussen has done.”
Nonetheless, G4S writes to Business & Human Rights that Rasmussen concluded that “G4S did not violate any national or international law.” Given its weaknesses, G4S would be ill-advised to rely solely on Rasmussen’s opinion in concluding that their activities do not violate international law.

Contractual obligations no justification for continued complicity in the occupation

However, G4S concluded that it “would aim to exit a number of contracts which involved the servicing of security equipment at the barrier checkpoints, a prison and a police station in the West Bank,” explicitly excluding the provision of services to private enterprises in the settlements. In addition, G4S shows no intention of terminating its services to prisons in Israel. As long as G4S is in any way involved in the detention of Palestinian political prisoners in Israel or the West Bank, it is not moving in the right direction.
Moreover, exiting the contracts concerning the checkpoints, a prison and a police station in the West Bank might take until 2015. The company decided that it needs the permission of its clients – who are engaged in implementing the occupation and repression - to exit the contracts before the expiry date. Contractual obligations to Israeli state organizations cannot justify the company’s continued complicity in the occupation.
G4S should therefore remain a target of the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement as long as it continues to deliver services to the Israeli police, the Ministry of Defense, the Israeli Prison Service, the Israeli army, and the settlement businesses of any other client, since they are all key activities in the oppression of the Palestinian people.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Mobilising Outrage

In another excellent article from John Grayson on Open Democracy, the processes of our no to G4S campaign are put in context:

How does a company with G4S’s reputation clean up on so many public privatising contracts now worth well over £1 billion a year in the UK alone? 
Firstly, it simply coopts, employs or buys former senior politicians, civil servants and diplomats to ‘advise’ and lobby for its contracts. The best known is former Home Secretary John (now Lord) Reid, a G4S board member. In recent months G4S has appointed to the new post of Director of Probation and Community Services David Griffiths, recently Deputy Director (justice policy) at the Ministry of Justice. 
In January Richard Northern joined G4S Risk Management as an adviser. He is “the former British Ambassador to Libya during the period leading up to and throughout the 2011 uprising”. According to G4S, he will be “pivotal in identifying, introducing and developing relationships with prospective clients and key Libyan decision-makers”.

(First published in Open Democracy on the 12th April, 2012)