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17 Jul 2018

G4S contract to run detention centres renewed despite documented abuse

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12 May 2018
Just over a week ago, buried behind the wall-to-wall press coverage of the local elections, it was announced that the government had renewed G4S’s contract to run the Brook House and Tinsley House immigration removal centres for another two years.
It came the same week that we had official confirmation that people are being kept in detention for over a year, that there were deportation targets and that some people were wrongly deported.
This is after repeated denials by senior ministers, including the Prime Minister.
It is inappropriate that the government snuck out the renewal of the G4S contract on the Friday between local elections and a Bank Holiday, in what many will see as a bid to escape scrutiny.
But the even greater scandal is that the contract was renewed at all.
On Tuesday, I was granted an urgent question on the matter to the government in Parliament and their inadequate response confirmed to me that the Tories are so wedded to the idea of allowing private firms to milk the public sector that they’re even willing to overlook documented brutality and mistreatment.
The decision to renew the Brook House contract comes less than a year after undercover footage broadcast by the BBC’s Panorama showed widespread mistreatment of detainees there, including subjecting them to verbal and physical abuse, amid drug abuse and suicide attempts.
Vulnerable detainees were shown being insulted, choked, restrained and humiliated by guards.
Perhaps the most shocking thing was how the G4S officers no longer seemed to see the detainees as human beings deserving of sympathy and how routine the abuse had become.
Even those of us who thought we knew about the conditions in immigration detention were saddened and horrified by what we saw.
While in her response to my urgent question the minister mentioned the Panorama programme, there is in fact a whole list of scandals in which G4S has been involved in recent years.
In 2016, Panorama also uncovered alleged abuse and mistreatment of youngsters at a G4S youth detention centre; in November 2017, an independent report found surging levels of violence were “unsafe.”
Another G4S facility, HMP Birmingham, was hit by riots in December 2016 and G4S was fined at least 100 times for breaching its contract to run prisons between 2010 and 2016.
There is also the very well-known case of father of five Jimmy Mubenga, who died under restraint on a British Airways plane while being deported.
Several witnesses said he was held down in his seat for more than half an hour by G4S guards.
His cries that he could not breathe were ignored until he actually stopped breathing. A 2011 inquest ruled his death unlawful.
It’s clear that whether they mistreat detainees or not seems to be of no account to this government in the awarding of contracts.
Another key thing to note here is that G4S is a huge company that is profiting from this situation. Last year its turnover was almost £8 billion and it pays out dividends in the hundreds of millions.
Despite the collapse of Carillion and other scandals illustrating the failure of the Tories’ obsession with privatisation and outsourcing, this decision also confirms that the government is committed to ensuring the maximum profits for major corporations.
For years, the state has effectively been a piggy bank for its friends in the private sector to make profits, ripping off the taxpayer again and again.
The reality is that the Home Office has long been aware of impro per conduct by G4S staff and those of other private companies. Yet the Tory government continues to sign off millions of pounds’ worth of contracts to these companies, and when they talk about looking to tender and the alternatives when it comes to these contracts, who are the good alternatives? Serco who operate in Yarl’s Wood detention centre?
The answer is not to reward injustice and mistreatment with new contracts.
The answer must be humane treatment, and taking the private sector out of detention and out of public services.
We have seen with the Windrush scandal that the public want an immigration system that is fair and efficient, and that bears down on illegal immigration, but they also want an immigration system that is humane.
Many will feel that, given what people know about G4S’s record, renewing this contract, even for two years, is not commensurate with a humane system of dealing with migrants.
The government is clearly failing vulnerable people in detention, a ndwe  must not forget that many detainees actually do have the right to behere and are later allowed to stay. In any event, no-one should be treated in such a way.
More broadly, the time has come for the government to come clean on its immigration policies and their effects. Until they do, they are in danger of losing all public confidence on this issue.

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