Asylum housing doors to be repainted after abuse claims

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Media captionAbdul Albashir, an asylum seeker from Sudan: "I've been victimised because of the painted colour of my door"

The front doors of houses used by asylum seekers are to be repainted, after claims they were targeted because nearly all of the doors were red.

Asylum seekers in Middlesbrough told The Times eggs and stones had been thrown at their houses because the doors made them easy to identify.

The immigration minister said he was "deeply concerned" about the issue.

G4S said there was no policy to house asylum seekers behind red doors but its subcontractor would be repainting them.

The Times visited 168 houses in Middlesbrough owned by Jomast, a subcontractor for the global security firm G4S, and found 155 had red doors.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Iranian asylum seeker Mohammed Bagher Bayzavi claimed his home was attacked because of the red front door

Former local councillor Suzanne Fletcher told the BBC's Today programme she had raised the issue with G4S as far back as 2012 but was told the company would not ask Jomast to repaint the doors.

She went on to submit evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Public Accounts Committee and National Audit Office.

She said: "Over four years ago when I was working with groups of asylum seekers, they were worried it marked them out and were worried about attacks."

Iranian asylum seeker Mohammed Bagher Bayzavi, 58, said he asked for a different coloured front door after being plagued by disturbances.

He said: "Everyone here knows the red colour is Jomast. Change the colour - anything but red."

Neighbours whose homes did not have red doors were not targeted, he added.

Image copyright Reuters

G4S said Jomast had no policy to house asylum seekers behind red doors but accepted the majority of doors, both for private and asylum accommodation, were painted red.

Stuart Monk, owner of Jomast, described the idea that red is used to mark out asylum seekers as "ludicrous".

He said: "As many landlords will attest, paint is bought in bulk for use across all properties.

"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."

Responding to an urgent question in the House of Commons from Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald, Home Office minister James Brokenshire said an audit of asylum seeker accommodation in the North East would be undertaken.

He said Home Office staff had been sent to Middlesbrough to ensure the doors were repainted and that government-imposed standards were being upheld.

'Ill-judged decision'

He described the situation as "deeply concerning".

The charity Refugee Council said it "has long held concerns about the quality and security of asylum accommodation".

It added: "The government must not tolerate its contractors taking a lax attitude towards housing these vulnerable people. Such an approach is clearly jeopardising their safety."

G4S said in a statement: "While we have not received any direct complaints from asylum seekers, we acknowledge that the issue of front door colours was first raised with us in 2012.

"We reviewed the issue at the time and it was not considered significant enough among asylum seekers to warrant repainting the doors of their homes.

"While there was never any policy to discriminate against asylum seekers, with the information now available to us we can see that our earlier decision was ill-judged and we have committed to repaint the doors within a matter of weeks."

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