Apartheid against asylum seekers in Britain’s Middlesbrough

Asylum seekers in Middlesbrough in northeastern England say their red house doors make them easy targets for racists

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

A boarded-up street in Middlesbrough, England

Updated Jan 21, 2016

Front doors of asylum seekers’ homes in Middlesbrough, a poor town in northeastern England, were painted red,  making them easy targets for hate attacks, the Times newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Asylum seeker families told that dog excrement is smeared on their doors, eggs and stones are thrown at their windows, and they are having to endure racist slogans.

The Middlesbrough houses are owned by Jomast, a subcontractor of services giant G4S, which holds a government contract to provide housing for asylum seekers in the region.

According to the report, 155 of the 168 Jomast houses had red front doors.

The newspaper spoke to the people living in 66 of the red-door houses. It said that 62 were home to asylum seekers of 22 nationalities, two others were previous asylum seekers and only two were UK citizens.

G4S said in a statement that "Our subcontractor Jomast has no policy to house asylum seekers behind red doors, although they do accept that the majority of doors, for both private and asylum accommodation, are painted red."

"Although we have received no complaints or requests on this issue from asylum seekers we house, in light of the concerns raised Jomast has agreed to address the issue by repainting front doors in the area so that there is no predominant colour."

A G4S security van is seen parked outside a bank in Loughborough, central England, in this file photograph dated August 28, 2013

British Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said he ordered an urgent audit of housing for asylum seekers in northeast England.

"If we find any evidence of discrimination against asylum seekers it will be dealt with immediately as any such behaviour will not be tolerated," Brokenshire said in a statement.

Ahmad Zubair, a refugee from Afghanistan, and Yusuf Abdullahi, from Iran, told a newspaper that they had repainted their front door, but a Jomast worker has painted them red again, citing company policy.

"Asylum houses have red doors. Everyone knows that," Zubair said.

"People were shouting outside the house, calling us hate words, throwing things at our windows."

Andy McDonald, the member of parliament representing Middlesbrough told the Times that the red doors were "a way of marking people out that is reprehensible."

McDonald’s predecessor Ian Swales said that they reminded him of "Germany in the 1930s."

Stuart Monk, owner and managing director of Jomast, said they bought the paint in bulk for use at all its properties, denying Nazi accusations.

"It is ludicrous to suggest that this constitutes any form of discrimination, and offensive to make comparisons to a policy of apartheid in Nazi Germany," he said.

There is one asylum seeker per 173 residents in Middlesbrough, higher than anywhere in Britain.

Over one million refugees arrived in Europe in 2015, but not many have made it to UK.

The Home Office (Interior Ministry) said that no area should have more than one asylum seeker for every 200 residents according to its guidelines.  

It said it is "working closely with G4S to implement a reduction programme" in Middlesbrough.

The company shares were down 2.8 percent in mid morning trading on Wednesday, which gave it a market value of 3.3 billion pounds.

TRTWorld and agencies