Three women alleged to have been turned out of their homes because firms working for G4S had failed to pay rent
Claims that vulnerable asylum seekers have been evicted from their homes after failures by contractors working for G4S, the world's biggest private security firm, are to be investigated by a parliamentary watchdog.
At least three women are alleged to have been expelled from properties because of rent arrears that had arisen because G4S subcontractors had not paid landlords.
The allegations have been forwarded to public spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO), which now plans to look into arrangements for asylum accommodation.
Last year G4S, which had no previous experience of providing social housing, was awarded a £324m slice of a seven-year £620m UK Border Agency contract to provide housing for asylum seekers.
However, concerns that a security company rather than a social housing association had secured the contract prompted warnings that the firm would be ill-equipped to handle it.
A letter from Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee, seen by the Observer, admits that the Home Office "is aware of general concerns around the contracts in operation" and that a review into asylum accommodation by the NAO will form part of a wider look at the delivery of public services by private sector contractors, including G4S.
Failures that mean already vulnerable individuals face increased insecurity have infuriated campaigners. An asylum seeker living with her one-year-old son in Leeds says her premises had accumulated rent arrears of £1,634 and her electricity or utilities bills had not been paid because the G4S subcontractor responsible had not dealt with the issue. The landlord wanted payment or repossession of the property and decided to force Judith Joseph from her home without notice. The 38-year-old said that as a result she was forced to move into her sixth home in just six months, a precarious situation that she says left mother and child bereft of medical services and other support networks.
She said: "I was really upset and angry, especially because I had a young child. A lot of other people are going through the same thing but they are scared to speak up. It's not right to treat people this way but no one listens to you if you are an asylum seeker."
Joseph was trafficked from Nigeria into the UK in 2000 and imprisoned as a sex slave in a London flat until escaping in 2008 and heading to Bradford, where she sought asylum in 2010. "I could not speak any English when I arrived and was kept in a house where men would come and I was forced to have sex with them. In Nigeria I was tortured and my brother killed, I did not realise that the people who took me to the UK were traffickers."
Jo Crane, director of policy at Kazuri, a social enterprise that helps vulnerable women find homes in the private sector, said: "Public services for vulnerable individuals must remain the responsibility of the state, and not be outsourced to the private sector.
"Further investment in the private sector at the detriment of the public sector fundamentally undermines our dignity, human rights and responsibilities around the way we treat our most vulnerable members as a supposedly mature democracy."
G4S, which provides housing and services for more than 10,000 asylum seekers across the country on behalf of the Home Office, said it was not aware of any asylum seekers who had been evicted. The company said it would be kept informed of any issues relating to landlords and would respond quickly.
A statement added: "The safety and welfare of those in our care is always our top priority and we use a network of experienced housing providers to ensure that the accommodation we provide is decent and of the standard expected by the Home Office.
"We have tried and tested mechanisms in place to deal with issues, including a 24-hour phone line for service users, and will always investigate any complaint rapidly. In the event of local disputes we retain the right to step in and ensure that all our service users receive appropriate support and accommodation; we take matters of this nature extremely seriously and continually work with our providers to ensure continuity of service."
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