The business of privatization and dealing with asylum seekers in the UK

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Construction of a “hostile environment” for refugees

Outsourcing companies implement the policy

Talking to philosophers, psychologists and psychiatrists

Demo on June 20th, anti-racism day, in George Square in Glasgow. Screenshot of Video

100 asylum seekers accommodated in a hotel in Glasgow are currently refusing to accept the meals offered to them, some of them moldy. They also protest against lack of corona protection

The rooms are fully occupied, there are only a few ways to avoid each other. There are hardly any masks and protective clothing. Claims for medical care are said to have been blocked, says the Glasgow “No Evictions” network. In the days before, there had been similar protests in other hotels used as mass accommodation for asylum seekers. A total of around 300 people are currently accommodated in this way.

Glasgow is thus representative of the plight in which asylum seekers are currently in Great Britain. It has been since the time when the later Prime Minister Theresa May was still the Minister of the Interior that state doctrine created a “hostile climate” for asylum seekers. The corona pandemic has further exacerbated the situation. Solidarity for refugees comes from union initiatives and refugee policy groups such as the “No Evictions” network.

In the middle of June the conditions in Glasgow received a little more attention for a short time. Right-wing hooligans and members of loyalist groups attacked a rally organized by unions and anti-racist networks in George Square in downtown Glasgow. The pretext for the right-wing attacks was that the war memorial in the middle of the square was supposed to be protected from Black Lives Matter activists. Since the statue of a slave trader was tipped into the sea in the southern English port city of Bristol, attacks on Black Lives Matter protests by right-wing nationalist hooligans have occurred in various British cities.

But Glasgow is also concerned with the impact of privatization measures within a migration system that is expressly “hostile” to refugees. Theresa May is considered the inventor of the term “hostile environment” – “hostile environment”. Realpolitik has been the “hostile environment” for many years. In 1999 the social democratic parliamentary majority in the lower house passed a new asylum and migration law, which did a lot of preparatory work. Among other things, the accommodation of asylum seekers was privatized at the time. The course at that time had a concrete impact on the current situation in today’s Glasgow and many other British cities.

Because the privatization of refugee accommodation went accompanied by the privatization of municipal apartments as a whole. At the beginning of the 1980s, over 60 percent of the population of Glasgow lived in communal apartments, today it is zero percent. In entire districts, hardly any more was invested in the apartments. Of course, these were, above all, the districts in which the poorest sections of the population live.

So-called “slum landlords” spread here. These “slum landlords” now live largely from contracts with private groups that are responsible for the accommodation of refugees. The landlords have no obligation to invest in their houses, but still get state money. Asylum seekers have no way of looking for other apartments. You are legally obliged to move into the apartments made available to you.

This policy was enforced in Glasgow by the Serco Group until 2019. Serco is everywhere when it comes to privatization. Money is also made with Corona, for example at Tracking infection chains.

In 2018, a protest movement against the group emerged in Glasgow because it wanted to make hundreds of people with rejected asylum applications homeless overnight. At the time, Serco employees exchanged the door locks without notice if the residents were out of the house, for example, for shopping. After numerous protests and demonstrations this practice was discontinued.

Since the end of 2019, the Mears Group has had the contract for residential care for refugees. Mears is also an outsourcing group that is active in the residential and elderly care sectors. A new business area is now being opened up with the refugee apartments. According to the non-governmental organization “Corporate Watch” there is for that £ 1.15 billion from the UK state.

This is by no means a stable business model. For example, the less you spend on renovation measures, the more profit can be made from the state funds made available. If the state plasticine fails to appear, bankruptcy threatens quickly. This is what happened to the outsourcing group Carillion in 2018. Whose decline was one of the largest bankruptcies in the UK for decades. The group had over £ 7 billion in debt, 45 percent of its income came from the state.

In May 2020, Mears suspended decentralized housing in sub-standard apartments for asylum seekers. Similar to the lock change actions carried out by Serco two years earlier, this also happened overnight. According to reports from the Glasgow “No Evictions” network, Mears employees came to the homes of the victims without notice and gave them 30 minutes to pack their things. The move to those hotels followed, which are now the scene of the protests mentioned at the beginning of this article.

Mears justifies the action with the corona crisis. The hotels are better suited to provide protection against infection for asylum seekers. The British Home Office has been consulted on this.

In fact, the Home Office cut the £ 35 weekly welfare allowance concurrently with the move. They were deprived of the most humble opportunity to live an independent life. You are now also dependent on the moldy meals distributed by Mears. Mears also claims to have acted in the interests of its own personnel through the measure. So you don’t have to visit so many different places of residence during the Corona period, according to a statement by the company in May.

Mears originally tried to sit out, but now concessions have been made. It was announced that asylum seekers belonging to Corona risk groups would be brought back from the hotels that had been converted into collective accommodation. In addition, Mears claims not to want to replace apartment locks in the future, as was done by Serco. This is a partial success for the refugees and their supporters. However, there is still no end in sight to the conflict.
(Christian Bunke)

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