Today, the inevitable did happen. G4S, Serco and Reliance Security were all awarded their proposed contracts for asylum seekers' social housing across the country. G4S' final contract for Midlands and the East of England, North West, and Yorkshire and Humberside, amounts to a shocking £203 million.
These five-year contracts will put three multi-national security companies in charge of providing accommodation for asylum seekers who are awaiting decisions from the UKBA. Regardless of obvious arguments about the problems of privatisation (arguable relevant to many other issues in contemporary Britain such as the NHS and our motorway network), this outsourcing of critical housing provision crucially ignores the charges and criticisms made against G4S over the past months.
Unsurprisingly, the awarding of this contract comes prior to a potential court case against G4S. The investigation into the death of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan asylum seekers who died whilst being deported by G4S guards, has been ongoing for 17 years. Recently, a senior judge declared that the decision on whether the G4S guards will be charged is imminent. This incident, alongside a huge portfolio of complaints of racial and physical abuse, led to G4S' deportation contract with the government being terminated in September 2011. It seems that the government - and G4S - will not allow this horrific record to interfere with 'business' once again.
Faced with another frightening demonstration of profit being put before people, big business are once again set to turn the asylum system into a profitable market. The logic is inevitable: profits will soar as equality plummets. As capitalism seeps into some of the most critical support sectors, we're set to see a system where service users are exploited for the financial benefit of multi-national corporations.
It's not difficult to see the changes. I challenge every reader of this blog to note every time they spot the G4S logo on a daily basis. Cash collection, property management, detention centres, event security, prisons, police services, and now housing; their web is ever-expanding.
As the NHS bill passes through parliament, David Cameron introduces ideas to privatise the roads and the publication of the budget looms on the horizon, the fabric of England's public services is set to change dramatically. Unfortunately, damage control is not enough.
Whilst campaigning groups are reeling against defeat, it is important that pressure on the government and private companies does not stop. G4S may have been awarded the contract, but the final decision on the Jimmy Mubenga case is still to be revealed. Just because the government have decided that G4S are the right "provider" for asylum seekers' social housing, this does not mean that we should follow suit.
G4S is the UK's biggest private security company, with its government contracts alone worth over £600 million. Responsible for security services, managing detention centres, prisons, and 675 court and police station holding cells, G4S have also just been granted the £100 million contract for providing 10,000 security guards for the upcoming olympics.
Whilst G4S still seem to be government favourites, their record is far from spotless. The firm lost their previous 'forcible deportation' contract last September after receiving 773 complaints of abuse – both verbal and physical. The final straw came with the death of Jimmy Mubenga in October 2010, an Angolan asylum seeker who died as a result of his forced deportation by G4S guards. Two of the guards are on bail facing criminal charges, whilst G4S is still waiting to hear whether they are to face corporate manslaughter charges.
Now, asylum seekers in Yorkshire and Humberside are expected to accept this multi-national, money-hungry, security company as their landlords.