Asylum seekers challenge G4S and Jomast over housing conditions

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In recent months the Migration and Asylum Justice Forum has been working hard to expose the conditions faced by asylum seekers housed by Jomast under the Home Office COMPASS contracts. Following a protest at Jomast’s local offices, press coverage and complaints to the housing and environmental health departments of Newcastle council, the campaign won the right to address representatives of G4S and Jomast directly. Following the meeting the campaign released this statement:

‘Sharon Holmes (G4S Head of business services), Juliet Halstead (G4S Head of housing), Charlie Cleverly (G4S Head of technical services), and Stuart Monk (CEO of Jomast), who has personal wealth of £175 million, met with representatives of the Migration Asylum Justice Forum on 22 May. Eight current Jomast tenants spoke about the problems they have been facing, including bedbugs, cramped conditions in the mother and baby hostels, issues with reporting repairs and getting them fixed, room sharing and being moved without sufficient notice. We have won some commitments to resolve specific problems and improve the reporting system for repairs. However, we know it is an uphill battle and the accommodation conditions will need continued monitoring by tenants and their supporters.

‘Despite the policy against room sharing for asylum seekers passed by Newcastle city council in March, the implementation of that policy by G4S and Jomast so far has not been agreed to and is still under discussion between the council and the providers... we await the outcome!

‘We continue to be concerned about the use of mother and baby hostels which can see up to 10 families sharing one kitchen and four toilets. We will continue to work with mothers in these hostels to raise awareness about the impact this accommodation has on the lives of their children and support them to take action.

‘Well done to all the tenants who spoke out. Some were fairly nervous about attending the meeting due to fear of retribution. If we hear of anyone being targeted as a result of yesterday we will campaign to defend them and expose this.’

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! North East activists have been supporting the campaign and congratulate the tenants on winning these concessions. Although Jomast was at pains to point out that our campaign had not prompted them to take any action, the fact remains that they were forced to turn up to the meeting and listen to our complaints. Many tenants report that Jomast staff are being more polite to tenants while ongoing problems which have been reported several times are suddenly being addressed.

The Migration and Asylum Justice Forum is committed to fighting for decent housing for asylum seekers, exposing the poor performance by subcontractor Jomast while remaining opposed to the privatisation of asylum accommodation by the Home Office. Despite our uncompromising position against the COMPASS contracts, collective action pressured top representatives of housing providers to meet with those directly affected. Rather than muting our criticism, organising with asylum seekers to speak out has won improvements, highlighting that grassroots organising and protest can make a progressive impact.

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