Sheffield demonstration over asylum housing contract

image captionAbout 40 people gathered outside the Town Hall in Sheffield on Wednesday afternoon

A demonstration has taken place in Sheffield over plans to give a security firm a contract to manage housing for asylum seekers across Yorkshire.

About 40 people stood outside the city's town hall after it was announced that the UK Border Agency planned to sign a regional contract with G4S.

South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG) said "G4S was not the best company for the job".

G4S said it would work with local agencies to engage asylum seekers.

Stuart Crossthwaite, from SYMAAG, said: "We believe they got the contract because they undercut the other bidders. For them its about saving money.

"Saving money means moving people to the cheapest housing and the cheapest housing is not going to be the best housing by any means."

City of Sanctuary

Mr Crossthwaite said the company should not be awarded the contract while an ongoing police investigation was being carried out into the death of an Angolan detainee, Jimmy Mubenga, while in the care of G4S in 2010.

He added: "People have come thousands of miles to escape persecution often being through trauma and wars.

"When people come here they deserve protection and that's why this country signed the refugee convention and its why Sheffield is a city of sanctuary."

G4S said it expected to sign a contract later this month.

"Our focus would be to ensure that asylum seekers can be integrated into local communities and into housing which is safe, sanitary and fit for purpose," it said.

"We work with local agencies and organisations and are keen to engage with as many interested parties as possible."

Previously the UK Border Agency told the BBC that the contracts would help deliver a service which met the needs of asylum seekers and offered value for money with estimated savings of £150m over seven years.

Sheffield Homes, which currently provides asylum seekers housing in the city, was not successful with its bid to retain the contract, which will handed over to the new contract holder in the coming months.

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