Why say no to G4S?
G4S are best known for being the firm that empties cash machines and provides security services at large scale events. In fact, they are the world's largest private security army. Their reach is global; responsible for 'security' at Doncaster airport as well as Baghdad airport, providing checkpoint facilities for the Israeli occupying forces in Palestine and managing police stations in the UK. They have managed prisons in the US, guarded oil in Nigeria and provided brutal prison guards in Australia and South Africa.
They are a huge international corporation, the second largest private employer in the world and the largest employer quoted on the British Stock Exchange. It is estimated that current (2011) G4S earnings from the UK government's contracts alone are around £600 million. Like many other huge companies, their tax contribution is somewhat dubious, filtering out earnings to subsidiary companies across the world. With some kind of twisted irony, they even have holdings in the murderous Bahraini dictatorship – a country that actively produces asylum seekers.
The important fact is that in order to be eligible for the new UK asylum housing contracts, the UKBA demands that companies must have a proven track record.
It seems that G4S – in both the UK and abroad – have a particularly unsavoury history.
G4S is not a new 'partner' with the UKBA. They currently hold contracts to transport and disperse asylum seekers across the country, and until 2011 provided the escorts for the forcible deportation of asylum seekers. There are multiple reasons why this contract was lost – reasons that cannot be ignored when reconsidering this security army for a housing contract.
- 300 cases of alleged physical assault and racial abuse by private security guards in the deportation process in 2008 (Medical Justice, 2008)
- G4S and security contractors involved in deportations “had failed to properly manage the use of violent restraint techniques by the their staff.” (Baroness O'Loan, March 2010)
- Jose Guttierrez, a Colombian deportee, was badly injured when forced onto an aircraft by G4S (The Guardian, October 2010)
- Zimbabwean deportee Mr Mlotshwa had his wrist broken whilst being forcibly removed from the UK - “These escorts are evil, they are really evil.” (The Independent, October 2010)
- Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan asylum seeker died as a result of his forced deportation by G4S guards. Two guards currently face criminal charges whilst G4S are still waiting to hear whether they face corporate manslaughter charges.
- A 40 year old Kenyan detainee died at G4S's Oakington Detention Centre near Cambridge, part through gross neglect of his medical condition.
- In 2010, there were a record 773 complaints made against G4S by detainees, including 48 claims of assault. G4S were allowed to investigate themselves under UKBA 'scrutiny.' It is little wonder that only three complaints of assault and two of racism were upheld.
“In the UK's detention centres there have been 16 suicides, alarming rates of self harm, hunger strikes and appalling levels of mental and physical illness. Thousands of innocent men, women and children have been put through the detention wringer.” (McFadyean)
The demonisation of asylum seekers by politicians and the media has meant that local authorities simply stopped applying for housing contracts and housing associations started to pull out. Coupled with the current government's 'big society, small state' agenda, it is little wonder that we find asylum housing contracts up for grabs. If the councils do lose contracts, it will mean hundreds of families dispersed to private landlords often miles away from children's schools or family doctors.
G4S are set to win the contract for asylum seekers' social housing in Yorkshire and Humberside purely due to 'economic' viability. Private security companies are masquerading as social landlords, citing corporate responsibility and 'ethics' as their moral groundings. But when profit precedes people, the most vulnerable are always set to lose.