The Tories are doing everything they can to create a ‘hostile environment’ for those fleeing war and terror. But some prominent Labour politicians have chosen to blame asylum seekers rather than austerity for the strain on public funds.
The Tory government is currently outsourcing the housing of asylum seekers to private companies such as G4S, Serco and Clearsprings.
Outsourcing of public services in general has proven to be a catastrophic failure. In order to make more profit, services provided are appalling, and charges are set far above actual costs.
After seven years of chaos, the COMPASS (Commercial and Operational Managers Procuring Asylum Support Service) contracts for housing asylum seekers will come to an end later this year, in September 2019. The contracts were due to end in 2021 but have been stopped early because the housing provided is not fit for people to live in.
COMPASS will be replaced by Asylum Accommodation Support Contract (AASC). Massive new contracts will be awarded to companies to provide asylum seeker housing. Despite the proven failure of privatisation in this area, the Tories are ploughing ahead with the very same disastrous method.
After fleeing their homes to escape danger and making a long and precarious journey, many asylum seekers suffer PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and other illnesses – both mental and physical.
If they make it to the UK, many refugees are forced to live in squalor while they work in order to claim asylum, navigating an unjust system in the process. Perfectly valid claims are often rejected. When this happens, an asylum seeker has the right to stay in the UK while they appeal the decision, but they are no longer entitled to any support from the government and are still not allowed to work.
It is an impossible situation. In some areas charities manage to help a lucky few with housing while they appeal, but many are left with nothing.
Under COMPASS, Clearsprings provide all the accommodation in London, South East England and Wales. In 2016, BBC investigators found broken fire alarms, leaking plumbing, damp, and broken electrical sockets.
While asylum seekers are forced to live in unfit housing, Graham King, founder of Clearsprings, has received a 379% pay rise. One director of the company received £913,686 in emoluments, despite Clearsprings failing to provide suitable accommodation.
It is clear that corners are being cut in order to line the pockets of fat-cat bosses. In Manchester, Serco housing for asylum seekers – including mothers and children – is riddled with cockroaches, rodents and bedbugs. In Glasgow last summer, Serco suddenly and forcefully evicted hundreds of refugees whose claims had been refused (but who could still appeal). Housing those people simply didn’t make good business sense for these profit-seeking parasites.
Perhaps the most sinister of all, G4S provides housing for Yorkshire and the Midlands. In 2016, G4S was fined £5.6m for the poor standard of the housing it provided in 2013-14. In September 2017, G4S were exposed for abusing detainees in Brook House immigration centre.
In October 2010, G4S employees murdered Jimmy Mubenga, father of five, on a deportation flight. As the flight was due to take off, Mubenga tried to stand up and was forcefully restrained. Despite crying out “they’re killing me, they’re killing me” and “I can’t breath”, the guards continued to restrain him. G4S faced no penalty and all three guards were cleared of manslaughter.
The scandal of privatisation goes far beyond the complete disregard for the wellbeing of asylum seekers. Serco have also been responsible for neglecting prisoners. In HMP Thameside, 60% of prisoners were locked up in their cells all day. And outsourcing contracts have gleefully taken contracts in the NHS, providing services for profit whilst also running them into the ground.
Elsewhere, G4S was found guilty of abusing young offenders in 2015. The same company has managed prisons at the lowest standards and with dramatic increases in violence and drugs, leaving blood and vomit uncleaned for days. Their spectacular failure to provide security services for the 2012 Olympics – revealed just days before the event began – is certainly the tip of the iceberg.
Both Serco and G4S are guilty of multiple incidents of fraud. The most high-profile case (so far) has been the tagging scandal, where these profiteering companies were found to be overcharging the government for tagging criminals, using names belonging to the dead, or to those still in prison or who never even been convicted. As a result, serco were forced to repay £69m and G4S a staggering £109m.
Not only is outsourcing asylum seekers’ housing disastrous for the refugees themselves, but Serco and G4S are losing money on this venture. Despite this, G4S is currently bidding for new contracts. The government has doubled the value of the contracts to a whopping £4 billion in an attempt to woo more bidders. And it seems that outsourcing companies are confident that this time round they will be able to make a profit – presumably by cutting the standard of services even further.
This is the most significant outsourcing contract since Carillion – the giant provider of defence, education, health and transport services – ignominiously collapsed a year ago after running a government-backed Ponzi scheme for years. It is clear that the seeds are being sown for a similar disaster with Serco and G4S today.
The Tory government has already had to reopen applications in one region after receiving no valid bids by May 2018. Even now, Northern Ireland and Yorkshire have received no bidders.
Clearly these companies are dangerous. But the problem goes beyond that: outsourcing social services is dangerous. The failings of these private companies is no coincidence. There is no place for profit in public services – and in particular when it comes to the housing of the most vulnerable.
Blame capitalism, not refugees
Many local authorities can see the failings of outsourcing housing. And supporting asylum seekers goes beyond housing. Local authorities find themselves strapped for cash as a result of austerity, straining to provide education, transport and other support for asylum seekers
This is especially true in the north of England, where council budgets have been disproportionately cut. And because housing is cheaper in the north, this is also where many asylum seekers are placed.
Instead of drawing attention to the budget cuts and mobilising the labour movement to fight austerity, however, 14 local authorities in Yorkshire have written to Sajid Javid, the Tory Home Secretary, expressing concerns over the “disproportionate concentrations of asylum seekers” in the region. They have said they will pull out of the AASC contract – and refuse to house asylum seekers altogether – if their concerns are not addressed.
Elsewhere in the north, Greater Manchester currently houses 1-in-6 asylum seekers with no extra funding. In response, Labour Mayor Andy Burnham has also threatened to stop housing asylum seekers if central government doesn’t address the disproportionate number of asylum seekers in Manchester.
But this just plays into the Tories’ hands. Sajid Javid is only too happy to grant the Manchester Mayor’s request, as it does nothing to challenge the Tory government. Indeed, he has promised to review the current national distribution of people seeking asylum. After all, people like Burnham are not demanding more funding, but fewer asylum seekers. He has ended up dancing to the right wing’s tune.
The enemy is profit
Labour must send out a clear message across the country: the problem is not asylum seekers – the problem is capitalism. Any scapegoating of refugees is shameful – particularly coming from prominent Labour representatives.
Labour Party members must act to show solidarity and support for asylum seekers and refugees. We need policies that target the true sources of the problem: imperialist foreign policy, capitalist austerity, and parasitic profit-seeking.
It’s clear from the bloated pay packets of the outsourcing bosses that inadequate housing is not due to a lack of resources, but due to privatisation and the barrier of profit.
The Labour Party must commit to providing quality housing for all – including asylum seekers and refugees. The necessary resources must be provided to achieve this, through the requisitioning of empty housing, the mass construction of new social housing, and the nationalisation of the major construction companies, banks, land, big landlords and rental companies.
With a bold socialist housing programme, a Labour government could end the scourge and scandal of poor housing that blights working class communities, uniting native workers and migrants against the common enemy of profit.
Model motion for Labour branches and CLPs
This branch notes:
- Under COMPASS (Commercial and Operational Managers Procuring Asylum Support Service), the government is currently outsourcing housing of asylum seekers to private companies such as G4S, Serco and Clearsprings. This has been a disaster.
- In 2016, G4S was fined £5.6m for the standard of the housing it provided in 2013-14.
- In 2019, the COMPASS contracts for housing asylum seekers will be replaced by AASC (Asylum Accommodation Support Contract) – a contract worth £4bn. Private companies are currently bidding to provide these services, including G4S.
- Housing contracts in Yorkshire and Northern Ireland have received no compliant bidders.
- Currently, asylum seekers who are appealing a decision on their claim, which can take years, are not provided with any housing or support from the government, despite the fact that they have right to be here.
- Currently asylum seekers have no right to work.
This branch believes:
- Strain on housing and public services is not caused by too many asylum seekers, or a lack of available wealth in society. Rather, it is caused by austerity, which is a necessary result of capitalist crisis.
- Society has a duty to provide a quality home to everyone who needs one – particularly vulnerable groups like asylum seekers and refugees, many of whom are fleeing conditions created by our government’s imperialist foreign policy.
- We shouldn’t be pandering to xenophobia in order to get votes – we have to address the problems of the poor everywhere.
- Diane Abbott has already criticised the government’s “failing to stand up to Serco’s determination to put profit before people”. The failings of these three private companies is no coincidence. There is no place for profit in the housing of the most vulnerable.
- The withdrawal of support when a claim has been rejected, but when an asylum seeker has the right to be in the country while they work on an appeal, leaves people destitute.
- While not being able to work, the independence, wellbeing and dignity of a person is put at risk.
This branch resolves:
- To demand a halt to the outsourcing of housing services for refugees and asylum seekers to private companies, and to demand an end to the privatisation and outsourcing of all public services.
- That Labour commit to providing quality housing to all – including asylum seekers and refugees – and to allocating all necessary resources to achieve this. This should include the requisitioning of empty housing, the mass construction of new social housing, and the nationalisation of the major construction companies, banks, land, big landlords and rental companies.
- That asylum seekers are supported at every stage of making their claim, and that they are allowed to work.
- Labour must fight for full employment for all. This can only be achieved by breaking with the market and the profit-motive – as envisioned by the original wording of Clause IV, which promised the working class the “full fruits of their industry” through common ownership.