G4S is not a landlord; it’s a private security army

After the publication of a letter signed by a multitude of Yorkshire Academics declaring their discomfort with the subcontracting of asylum seekers’ social housing provision to multinational corporations – G4S, Serco and Reliance Security – John Grayson, a member of the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group and a lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, has written a striking article that pushes home the importance of resisting government changes to housing provision.

Calling the government’s “preferred bidders” for the Yorkshire and Humberside region, G4S, a “private security army” rather than landlords, Grayson details G4S’ history of providing poor, and sometimes lethal, services in the detention centres and dispersal procedures that it currently runs. Grayson continues to highlight the dangerous commodification of such critical services:

Although G4S’s slogan is “Securing Your World” its policy and practice is more accurately expressed by a recent description of the US private sector detention and deportation industry: ‘Every prisoner a profit centre, every immigrant a business opportunity’.

As the coalition commits itself to deficit reduction and austerity, its zeal for outsourcing to huge, profit-making, private companies must be kept in check. It has already been reported that the initial contracting of private companies to provide asylum seekers’ social housing produced “a housing system which in many instances was poorly regulated, substandard and unsafe” according to the Institute for Race Relations. To grant a private contract which has already been heavily criticised to a company that has a non-existent record of providing dignified and safe services is more than ludicrous; it is highly dangerous. Decisions made by government officials and corporate executives, so far removed from the precarious lives of the people on whom the changes would impact, are set to further endanger the wellbeing and safety of asylum seekers across the country. This is something we must all resist.

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