Homes, G4S style: Rubbish, rising damp... and 'roaches'
Another shambles as security giant leaves asylum seeker living in squalor
Charlotte Philby is a writer at The Independent with a weekly column on motherhood in The Independent Magazine. She was shortlisted for the 2013 Cudlipp award for excellence in popular journalism for her undercover investigative work, and writes for various cultural magazines.
Friday 14 December 2012
An asylum seeker with a five-month-old baby claims she was placed in a property by the private contractor G4S that was infested with cockroaches and slugs. The woman, who was trafficked to the UK and sold into prostitution before seeking asylum, claims she and her baby were left in the house for weeks before the local council intervened to ensure they were rehoused.
Leeds City Council contacted G4S, and their property sub-contractors Cascade, earlier this week after their inspectors found the property was a “Category 1 Hazard” and unfit for human habitation in its current condition. G4S holds contracts to supply accommodation to asylum contracts across much of England as part of the UK Border Agency’s COMPASS project.
The woman, known as Angela, says she was “dumped” at the property after she refused to accept an alternative place offered to her on the basis that the filth, mould and damp there would pose a health risk to her child.
She made repeated complaints to both G4S and Cascade and was told by the firms that they had carried out their own inspections and were satisfied the accommodations was “decent”.
“One of the people said to me when I rang ‘slugs are not harmful, even if your baby eats one of them’” she told The Independent.
Angela, who was forced into prostitution after being trafficked to the UK in 2000, was initially housed in a “nice” one-bed flat by UKBA after seeking refuge from her handlers.
But when her son was born she was moved to an area contracted to G4S and sub-contracted to property firm Cascade. “When I came here I said ‘this house doesn’t look safe for me and my child to live in’, there were cockroaches and slugs,” Angela recalls. “They took me to another property and that was absolutely disgusting, worse than this one. The kitchen smells of wee, the whole place, words cannot describe I was crying, I was screaming”.
She claims she was told there were no more places so she had “no choice” but to go back to the house she has been in ever since, too scared to even lay her child on the floor. This case raises fresh concerns over the treatment of vulnerable people put in the care of G4S, a private firm with dozens of state contracts including the botched Olympics security contract. Its seven-year £211m deal with the UK Border Agency’s commercial arm was awarded in June this year.
Councillor Peter Gruen of Leeds City Council, said: “Property standards are clearly an issue with the portfolio of properties being used in Leeds under this contract; and G4S have undertaken to review the portfolio.” Andrew Gray, accommodation director at G4S said: “This property was inspected before the individual moved in and there was absolutely no damp problem and certainly no sign of pest infestation then”. He added its sub-contractor had “acted quickly to tackle the problem” replacing the washing machine which it blamed for damp. Cascade could not be reached for comment.
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