Fears over “disastrous” asylum housing contract on the agenda in Sheffield

Asylum seekers, journalists and academics will take part in a conference to discuss concerns over a new asylum housing contract set to cost taxpayers £4 billion.

The organisers of the conference, South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG), said the current contract could be disastrous for many asylum seekers, both individuals and families.

“Since 2012, there have been many examples where the legal and human rights of refugee children and disabled refugees have been threatened by conditions in, and management, of asylum accommodation,” said SYMAAG.

Security firm G4S has provided accommodation for asylum seekers in Sheffield since 2012, after signing a regional contract.

Stuart Crosthwaite, Secretary for SYMAAG, said: “The contract is institutionally flawed. After the Grenfell fire we had a few reports of G4S properties where it may have been impossible for people to get out of their flats.”

In January 2017, the Home Affairs Select Committee described the living standards in asylum accommodation as disgraceful, with overcrowding and infestations of vermin.

G4S has confirmed its interest in the new contracts, which are expected to start in September 2019 and end September 2029.

G4S did not comment further on the accusations made by Mr Crosthwaite.

Mr Crosthwaite said: “It’s the biggest ever single Home Office contract. Not every house is a slum, but a large proportion of them are. It’s not working and we’re paying for it.”

More than 30 charities have called on the government to give councils more power over asylum housing. Groups including SYMAAG hope for a system that is accountable and not run for profit.

A film by SYMAAG was released last year and branded as “The film G4S don’t want you to see.”

Mr Crosthwaite said: “It was going to be shown on the Victoria Derbyshire show, but it was pulled and we were told that G4S had objected although we thought we had legally cleared it beforehand.”

The conference held by SYMAAG will take place on 24 February at The Sanctuary, Chapel Walk, Sheffield.