G4S – securing their world

On 30 October, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) announced that it would not be renewing its £30m contract with private security firm G4S to carry out forcible deportations. G4S stated that it was ‘extremely disappointed’ to have lost the contract after five years but made clear that the failure to renew its contract was related to the price of its bid ‘and not to recent events’. Joseph Eskovitchl reports.

The ‘recent event’ being glossed over is the brutal killing on 11 October of Jimmy Mubenga during an attempted deportation to Angola. After he became distressed, three G4S security guards physically restrained Mubenga, using handcuffs, sitting on top of him and forcing him underneath his seat. One witness described the force as excessive and passengers heard Jimmy repeatedly cry ‘they are trying to kill me’ and ‘I can’t breathe’ By the time paramedics reached him it was too late. He was pronounced dead in hospital.

Jimmy Mubenga was the first person to be killed in the course of a deportation from Britain since 40-year-old Jamaican mother Joy Gardner was murdered by a Metropolitan police deportation squad in 1993. She was gagged with 13 feet of tape and restrained with a body belt at her London home. The police officers were subsequently acquitted of manslaughter.

G4S and the Home Office dismissed the death of Jimmy Mubenga, claiming he ‘became unwell on a flight while being deported’. On 2 November 2010 David Banks, G4S group managing director, told the home affairs select committee that his guards abided by a philosophy of ‘care, humanity and decency’. The three guards involved are currently out on bail.

Investigations are also ongoing against G4S security guards involved in the violent restraint of Cameroonian Ludovic Paykong on a flight in March, and of Colombian Jose Gutierrez, just days before Mubenga’s death. If past form is anything to go by, it is safe to say that the British state will protect those conducting its dirty work.

In March 2010, an independent report by Baroness Nuala O’Loan criticised the misuse of force by G4S and other private sector companies. UKBA Chief Executive Lin Homer responded by accusing doctors and lawyers of ‘seeking to damage the reputation of our contractors’. In June, Khu Mlotshwa was punched and kicked by G4S security guards while in handcuffs and leg-locks during an attempted deportation to Zimbabwe in which his wrist was broken. A Home Office investigation dismissed the complaint, ‘satisfied... the officers have provided a more credible and accurate account of what happened on the aircraft’. In October, a Cambridge coroner ruled that authorities at the G4S-run Oakington immigration detention centre acted in a ‘timely and appropriate manner’ in relation to the death of Kenyan Eliud Nyenze in April. The death led to protests by fellow detainees, who reported Eliud was denied medical assistance and left to ‘crawl around the floor in pain’. Within 24 hours, G4S was celebrating winning a British Safety Council award for its ‘commitment to improving corporate health and safety’. The list goes on.

G4S is the world’s largest private security company. It is the largest employer listed on the London Stock Exchange and the second largest private employer in the world, with 585,000 employees. In 2009 it had a turnover of £7.01bn, recorded net profits of £219.2m and was active in over 110 countries. In the UK and Ireland alone, its turnover was over £1.2bn with over 40,000 employees. According to its website, ‘more than 6,000 customers, including 50 FTSE 100 companies and the majority of UK government departments, depend on G4S to provide them with a safe and secure way to deliver their services’.

This is where the real power of capital lies. Dominating all aspects of life, it is beholden to no democratic controls. We cannot vote it out of office. Most people have no idea what it does. Under 13 years of Labour government, G4S secured contracts for everything from monitoring electronically tagged offenders, running police cells, private prisons and immigration centres to providing ‘critical support services’ for NHS Trust hospitals and ‘facility management services’ for schools. In 2009, G4S hired former Labour Defence Secretary John Reid for £50,000 a year to offer ‘strategic advice’. Three months later, the company was awarded a multi-million pound contract to supply security guards for 200 military sites across Britain. British imperialism’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would have been impossible without the private military contractors of companies like G4S.

As the coalition government unleashes its austerity attacks on the working class, the unemployed, the disabled, migrants and asylum seekers; as public provision is slashed and the ‘Big Society’ allows the private sector to tear apart the carcass, things are looking good for G4S. In November, the company signed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ with the government, outlining cost savings in various contracts. G4S said the savings would not affect its profit margins as, for instance, in its four prisons it would scale back non-essential work such as cleaning and decorating. Profits are there to be made from the misery and impoverishment of society: ‘[We] believe there are a number of areas where the private sector can deliver future cost savings to the Government as a result of more extensive outsourcing which will provide medium term growth opportunities... and allow G4S to grow its market share.’

‘Securing your world’ runs the tagline on the company’s website. It is a world secured at the expense of the vast majority of humanity; our only security solution is to destroy it once and for all.

FRFI 218 December 2010/January 2011

 

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