Fight for asylum seekers’ housing rights! No to room-sharing and squalid conditions


On 23 March, the Migration and Asylum Justice Forum (MAJF), which is supported by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! North East demonstrated outside the tribunal where Home Office housing subcontractor Jomast were challenging a number of Environmental Health orders issued against them by Newcastle City Council over conditions in asylum housing. The campaign ensured the issue of overcrowding and unfit conditions in Jomast properties came to national prominence with coverage in The Independent. We also got a chance to challenge Jomast owner Stuart Monk (wealth in excess of £185m) as he left the tribunal.

MAJF has been central to the campaign for reforms to the appalling conditions in the appalling, overcrowded conditions asylum seekers are forced to live in. Asylum housing is currently tendered out under the COMPASS Contract to private companies; G4S holds the largest share of these, including in the north east where it subcontracts to Jomast a property management and redevelopment company. Jomast boasts real estate assets in excess of £250m and owns vast amounts of property in Teesside, Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland.

Jomast’s housing provision for asylum seekers is overcrowded and squalid. The campaign has documented and raised complaints about bedbugs, broken cookers, leaking ceilings and black mould. To reduce costs as low as possible, single adults are regularly forced to share their bedrooms, often with complete strangers. Facilities are inadequate for the number of tenants. Forced bedroom sharing has been identified as a major source of tension, with the Home Affairs Select Committee finding that bedroom sharing has a detrimental impact on mental health. Earlier in the month, MAJF organised a picket of Jomast’s Middlesbrough offices, supported by a number of other groups campaigning for migrants and asylum seekers, and forced the headquarters to close for the day. Last year, Newcastle City Council passed a policy against room sharing but Jomast refused to cooperate. MAJF put pressure on the council to act, addressing a full council meeting and demanding they take action. The campaign passed on addresses where bedroom sharing was taking place, pushing the council to inspect several Jomast properties. The Environmental Health department issued seven notices under Section 139 of the Housing Act 2004, stating that the properties were over-occupied.  Now Jomast has challenged the council at a tribunal. A ruling is expected in about six weeks. If Jomast loses, this could set a precedent for other councils in the region and nationally. Whatever the outcome, MAJF will continue the fight for decent conditions for asylum seekers. One room, one person! One house, one family!

Newcastle: standing up to racism?

sutr newcastle

On 17 February, some 600 fascists led by Veterans against Terrorism (VAT) marched through Newcastle city centre. While Newcastle has been a frequent venue for such racist demonstrations over the years, this occasion saw the smallest mobilisation ever of anti-fascist forces, and one which was dominated by reactionary Labour Party politics.

The fascists paraded under a plethora of banners: Football Lads Alliance, People’s Charter,  Gays Against Extremism, Multiracial Alliance Tackling Extremism and Mothers Against Radical Islam And Sharia, mostly fronts for the English Defence League (EDL).

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Tyneside asylum seekers fight overcrowding

Victory! Following public pressure from the Migration and Asylum Justice Forum (MAJF) including FRFI supporters, Newcastle City Council has begun to take legal enforcement action against private housing and construction company JOMAST for breaking overcrowding regulations under section 139 of the Housing Act 2004. Hiding behind outdated housing law, JOMAST expect unrelated same sex adults to share bedrooms and cram multiple families into flats and hostels. Months of consistent protests, collecting testimonies and documenting asylum housing conditions have begun to yield results: several JOMAST residents have now been given their own bedroom after pressure from the campaign led to properties being inspected by Newcastle city council. This victory shows that asylum seekers and their supporters can organise to improve housing conditions.

The Home Office has contracted out the provision of housing for asylum seekers to the notorious G4S, which in turn has subcontracted private company JOMAST in the north east. JOMAST is making a fortune for housing people in run down, overcrowded accommodation. Newcastle City Council passed a policy against forced bedroom sharing in March 2017 but JOMAST ignored this. In response, MAJF rallied at the council in June to highlight the continued practice and demand the policy be enforced. Cabinet member Councillor Kilgour committed the council to 'inspect and if necessary take appropriate action in cases of forced room sharing against the wishes of the occupants'. Taking up this commitment, MAJF has knocked on doors and leafleted drop-in centres and has supported scores of residents to complain, leading to several victories. The campaign is calling on other councils to take similar action.

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North East Events

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North East Events coming up..

We have street actions and political educational meetings in Newcastle every week.

For more information on events in the North East you can also join the FRFI North East e-mail list and the mailing lists of campaigns we are involved in on the following pages:

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