organization:home affairs committee

  • Asylum accommodation is a disgrace

    The Home Affairs Committee says the current contract system for asylum accommodation isn’t working and major reforms are needed. The Committee brands the state of some asylum accommodation provided by Government contractors a “disgrace” and says it is “shameful” that very vulnerable people have been placed in these conditions.
    #hébergement #logement #asile #migrations #réfugiés #UK #Angleterre

    • The shame of asylum housing of child refugees in the UK

      The early months of the lives of hundreds of babies, toddlers and young child refugees have been blighted by life in privatised accommodation provided by #G4S, #Serco and #Clearsprings[1] and funded by taxpayers, since 2012. Now the government has extended their contracts for another two years.
      #enfants #enfance #mineurs #privatisation

    • Abusive practices in UK detention centres – G4S and Home Office under fire

      The critique of the UK detention system is hardening as a result of problematic incidents during the first week of September. The death of a former detainee in a hospital, after an apparently failed suicide attempt in Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) is being investigated and a report released the same week provides evidence of alarming abusive conduct by detention officers in Brook House IRC.

    • What I saw when I went undercover

      #Callum_Tulley was so shocked by the chaos, violence and abuse he saw as a detainee custody officer in an immigration removal centre, he decided to become a whistleblower.

      Putting on hidden cameras for a BBC Panorama investigation, the 21-year-old exposes a toxic, brutal and failing environment, where self-harm and drug abuse are commonplace.

      Ten staff and former staff have been suspended as a result of his allegations.


    • A life costs £10,000: how G4S’ Brook House detention contract works

      In 2017, security company G4S was in the headlines again after the Panorama TV programme exposed new revelations of brutality in Brook House, one of two immigration detention centres the company runs for the Home Office. Two years later, the National Audit Office has published a report on G4S’ contract to run the centre.

      The report doesn’t contain many surprises for anyone familiar with the grim reality of life inside privately-run detention centres. But it makes public for the first time some information on just how companies like G4S rack up substantial detention profits.

      For example, it reveals G4S is fined just £10,000 when someone kills themselves in its “care”. And it confirms the money G4S makes from detaining migrants. It has made comfortably over £2 million a year for most of its time running Brook House, with a profit margin typically between 18 to 20%. Or more than 200 times the cost of a detainee’s life.

      But the report also shows that the company has made even more money in other detention centres. And these windfall profit rates look set to go even higher under the goverment’s plans for the new Brook House contract, which is due to start in May 2020.

      Here we summarise some key points from the report. The NAO report itself is quite clearly written and worth reading for the full detail.

      See also: our G4S Company Profile; Chapter 7 of The UK Border Regime for much more on the detention system. And for another example of lax state oversight of privately-run prisons, read our report last year on Carillion staff working without mandatory suicide prevention training.
      Brook House contract basics

      Brook House is one of two migrant detention centres run by G4S inside the perimeter of Gatwick airport – the other is Tinsley House. It has places for up to 508 detainees, all male.i It is the UK’s most secure detention centre, run to the same security standards as a Category B prison.

      Brook House opened in 2009, and its management was contracted out to G4S from the start. G4S’ contract was initially set for nine years. However, after the Panorama scandal broke in 2017, the government announced it was cancelling the process to re-tender the contract. Instead, it extended G4S’ current deal for another two years.

      The Home Office has since said that the current contract is “not fit for purpose”, and it is designing a new type of contract for the centre in future. The new deal is supposed to start in May 2020 and last until 2028. It is currently out for tender, and companies have until October 2019 to put in their bids.

      How the contract works

      The NAO report explains how G4S gets paid. G4S receives around £13 million per year for running Brook House. The payments involve:

      a basic monthly fee – a bit over £1 million per month;
      minus a deduction for under-occupation;
      minus deductions for “performance failures”.

      G4S has overall responsibility for managing, maintaining, and repairing the centre, but can sub-contract parts of the job. For example, catering and cleaning services are sub-contracted to Aramark.

      The contract sets minimum staffing levels. Brook House has four wings: each is supposed to have at least one manager and three guards (“detainee custody officers”) on duty at all times.
      Minimal deductions

      In reality, G4S gets almost all the maximum fee. On average, under-performance deductions have only been about 1.5% of the fee per month. The biggest penalties – £30,000 if someone escapes, or £10,000 if someone dies following “self-harm” – are still tiny amounts relative to G4S’ fees. Also, the Home Office has actually let G4S off almost half of all possible deductions, allowing it to claim “mitigating circumstances”.
      The price list: 30 performance measures

      The contract sets out 30 performance issues which can lead to a deduction. The NAO report lists all of these. The two biggest deductions are for:

      escapes: £10,000 to £30,000
      “self-harm resulting in death”: £10,000

      The other deductions are all in the order of a few hundred pounds per day. The most serious is understaffing, which can be charged at between £134 and £1,790. Other failures such as insufficient cleaning, not reporting problems to the Home Office, health and safety breaches, or inadequate cell standards, may cost anywhere between £18 and £857 a day.
      What’s not included

      The list of performance measures says something about the Home Office’s priorities. For example, an escape is worth up to £30,000, but “self harm resulting in death” only £10,000.

      But maybe even more revealing is what isn’t included in the list. Deaths only cost G4S if they are judged to result from “self harm”. There is no mention at all of deaths from abuse or neglect. Or of non-fatal assaults and abuse. If a detainee manages to bring a “serious substantiated complaint” of assault or racial abuse, G4S can lose just £537 – less than 2% of its daily fee.

      The NAO report raises this issue in relation to the Panorama scandal. It says clearly:

      Inappropriate use of force or verbal abuse of detainees are not counted as a performance failure under the contract.

      The Home Office and G4S counted 84 incidents in the Panorama footage. But it found that “most of these were either already reported or were not required to be reported under the contract”. Only eight incidents were judged to need new contract deductions. G4S’ penalty for these incidents of abuse came to a grand total of £2,768 – about a quarter of one per cent of its monthly fee.

      Brook House makes a tidy profit

      Brook House and other detention centres make their corporate managers a lot of money. In a July 2018 report, we concluded that profit levels of 20% and up are standard across the industry.

      Our analysis looked in detail at the accounts for Dungavel detention centre, as well as information available on G4S centres. The NAO report largely confirms this picture – although it seems that G4S’ profits on Brook House have gone down recently as it has brought in extra staff after the Panorama scandal. According to the report:

      G4S told us it made an annual gross profit on the contract of 18% to 20% until 2016, falling to 10% in 2017 and 14% in 2018.

      Between 2012 and 2018, G4S’ total gross profit from Brook House was £14.3 million – according to G4S’ own figures, which the NAO hasn’t audited itself. Between 2009 and 2016, the annual profit was between £2.1 and and £2.4 million. This only dropped in 2017 and 2018 when the company brought in extra managers and staff in response to its Panorama exposure.

      To clarify, “gross profit” means the money G4S makes from the Brook House contract itself. That is: the fees it gets from the Home Office (its revenue), minus the specific costs of running the centre – e.g., paying for guards, centre managers and maintenance staff, or for detainees’ food or cleaning products.

      This is not the final profit G4S books as a company in its accounts. Before that figure, it will also have to account for company-wide “administrative” costs such as running its head office and lobbying for new contracts.

      However, even looking at those final or “net” profits, the NAO report confirms that detention is a very profitable business. According to the report, “G4S’s net profit on the contract over 2012 to 2018, following the deduction of a share of regional and group overheads, was 6% to 15%.” That compares to an overall average net profit of 6% on G4S’ whole security division.

      In short: G4S makes substantially more money from government contracts to lock up migrants than it does on its other main business lines like providing security guards for banks. (See our previous analysis of this in our G4S company profile.)
      .. but other G4S detention centres make even more

      And yet Brook House is actually the least profitable of G4S’ detention centres. The company makes even higher profits on running Tinsley House. And it made more still on Cedars, the now closed family detention centre it ran together with Barnardo’s.

      According to the NAO report: “at Tinsley House immigration removal centre, G4S’s gross profit ranged between 26% and 43% in the period 2012 to 2016, and net profit between 19% and 28%.” Brook House is less profitable than Tinsley House because it has higher security costs, and also because the higher paid senior managers for the two centres are based there.

      As for Cedars, locking up families with children provided G4S with an incredible cash cow. The NAO report informs us that:

      Profits on the Cedars pre-departure accommodation, which closed in 2016 due to low use, ranged from 21% to 60% gross or 15% to 55% net between 2012 and 2016.

      G4S gets to keep any extra money it makes?

      One point that’s a bit technical but potentially important. According to the NAO report, there is no requirement for G4S to share any “extra” profit it makes from unexpected savings.

      This seems at odds with other information we have previously seen on detention centre contracts, and indeed on government outsourcing contracts in general. They often contain a clause stating that the company has to give back some of its extra gain if it makes over a certain figure.

      But, according to the NAO report, the Home Office didn’t bother to include any such clause in the Brook House deal:ii

      The Home Office is not entitled to a share of G4S’s profits under the contract. If G4S is able to substantially reduce its operating costs through new technologies or other investment then the Home Office and G4S agree how to share the savings, and G4S’s monthly fee is reduced accordingly. This has happened once with investment in a key vending technology. But this savings mechanism is unrelated to how much profit G4S makes.

      The new contract looks set to be even more profitable

      As mentioned, the Home Office has admitted that the Brook House contract is “not fit for purpose”. But what can we expect from the new deal it is currently tendering?

      Unfortunately, the NAO report doesn’t tell us anything on that. It suggests that the Home Office may include some performance measure related to “inappropriate use of force” in the new contract – but no detail is given.

      As for money-making, the tender announcement for the new contract gives a value of £260 million over ten years – or around £26 million per year. This will cover both Brook House and Tinsley House.

      The current value of the Brook House and Tinsley House contracts combined is only around £16 million (Tinsley House is smaller and has lower security). So it appears there will be a big jump in the fees the centres’ managers will get after 2020.

      In conclusion: scandals come and go, but it looks like detention will carry on being a very profitable business indeed.

  • Significantly, but without much fanfare, an expanded definition of anti-Semitism entered the UK’s policy arena this April.

    An article by Eric Pickles, former secretary of state for communities and local government, chair of the Conservative Friends of Israel and, since September 2015, UK special envoy for post-Holocaust issues, entitled ‘A definition of antisemitism’ introduced the government’s ‘Combating Anti-Semitism: a British best practice guide’ just before the announcement of a short Home Affairs Committee inquiry into anti-Semitism. And in it, anti-Semitism, traditionally defined simply as ‘hostility to or discrimination against Jews’ (Concise Oxford Dictionary) was replaced by an enormously long definition which not only includes attacks (physical or verbal) on Jewish people and community institutions but also ‘manifestations … target[ing] the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity’, such as: ‘denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, eg, by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour; applying double standards by requiring behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation … drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis …’


  • BBC News - UK asylum seekers ’told to prove they are gay’

    UK asylum seekers ’told to prove they are gay’
    By Justin Parkinson Political reporter, BBC News
    UK Border controls sign at Heathrow Airport MPs complained about a backlog of asylum cases
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    Gay and lesbian people seeking asylum in the UK from persecution abroad are being ordered to “prove” their sexuality, MPs have said.

    In extreme cases claimants had handed over photographic and video evidence of “highly personal sexual activity” in an effort to persuade officials, the Home Affairs Committee found.

    The gay rights group Stonewall called the testing system “distressing”.

    The Home Office promised to monitor and maintain standards.

    In its report on the asylum system, the committee said it was concerned by the quality of the UK Border Agency’s decision-making, as 30% of appeals against initial decisions had been allowed in 2012.

    And a backlog of 32,600 asylum cases that should have been resolved in 2011 was yet to be concluded, while the number of applicants still waiting for an initial decision after six months had risen by 63% last year.

    Some had been waiting up to 16 years, while the housing with which they were provided was sometimes “appalling”.

    It also said poor decision-making by officials was raising the risk of the UK harbouring war criminals.

    The committee also focused on the situation facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people seeking asylum.

    In its report, the committee said they faced “extraordinary obstacles” in persuading immigration officers of their case.

    Its chairman, Labour MP Keith Vaz, told BBC News: "It is absurd for a judge or a caseworker to have to ask an individual to prove that they are lesbian or gay, to ask them what kind of films they watch, what kind of material they read.

    “People should accept the statement of sexuality by those who seek asylum. This practice is regrettable and ought to be stopped immediately.”

    A Supreme Court ruling in 2010 stated that the “underlying rationale” of the United Nations Refugee Convention was that people should be able to “live freely and openly” in their own country without fear of persecution.

    This judgement, the committee said, had effectively overturned the Border Agency’s previous emphasis on “voluntary discretion” - which had meant it should be seen an option for claimants to conceal their sexuality in order to avoid abuse.

    The report said: “The battleground is now firmly centred in ’proving’ that they are gay. In turn, this has led to claimants going to extreme lengths to try and meet the new demands of credibility assessment in this area, including the submission of photographic and video evidence of highly personal sexual activity to caseworkers, presenting officers and the judiciary.”

    The committee said: “We were concerned to hear that the decision making process for LGBTI applicants relies so heavily on anecdotal evidence and ’proving that they are gay’.”

    It added that "it is not appropriate to force people to prove their sexuality if there is a perception that they are gay. The assessment of credibility is an area of weakness within the British asylum system.

    “Furthermore, the fact that credibility issues disproportionately affect the most vulnerable applicants - victims of domestic and sexual violence, victims of torture and persecution because of their sexuality - makes improvement all the more necessary.”

    The Refugee Council said the committee’s report reflected its “grave concerns” about the UK asylum system.

    Chief Executive Maurice Wren said: “Failing to treat asylum seekers with dignity and, simultaneously, failing to deal effectively and fairly with their claims has created an expensive and counter-productive bureaucratic nightmare that all too often denies vulnerable people the protection from persecution and oppression they desperately need.”

    Stonewall says LGBTI people in some countries have suffered rape, torture and death threats.

    Spokesman Richard Lane said: "Being gay isn’t about what nightclubs you go to; it is a fundamental part of who you are.

    "Sadly, in far too many cases, valuable time is spent attempting to ’prove’ a claimant is gay in this way rather than establishing whether they have a legitimate fear of persecution.

    “This is not only a waste of time and resources but can be deeply distressing to asylum seekers, many of who have fled for fear of their lives.”

    A Home Office spokesman said: "The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need it. We are committed to concluding all cases as quickly as possible, but asylum cases are often complex and require full and thorough consideration.

    “We have robust mechanisms in place to monitor standards of housing provided to asylum seekers.”

    He added: “We will continue to monitor performance to ensure that standards are met.”

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