RAPAR position statement on SERCO
RAPAR is deeply concerned about the current role and activities of SERCO, an organisation charged with the provision of accommodation to asylum-seekers in the UK.
Following a freedom of information request submitted by Inside Housing Magazine last April, the UKBA was forced to reveal its plans to slash its asylum housing budget by almost thirty million pounds.
The UKBA ran a full tendering process for contracts through its COMPASS project, to replace current contracts and further reduce costs. In December last year, SERCO, along with G4S and Reliance, were awarded contracts to provide asylum accommodation across the UK for the next five years.
Serco has been the subject of many claims of abuse and assault by detainees. For example, in February 2010, 84 women detained in Yarl's Wood went on hunger strike in protest at their prolonged detention and inhumane treatment at the hands of SERCO security guards who broke up the protest with brutal force.
70 women were locked in a corridor for up to eight hours without access to food, water, toilet or medical care. Many collapsed and about 20, who tried to climb out of the windows, were beaten up and taken into isolation cells. Four of the women, singled out as “ringleaders”, were transferred to Holloway prison in London and held there for months without being charged with any offence or brought before a judge.
In July 2010, two detainees in Colnbrook, which is also run by SERCO, were found dead in their cells. Around the same time, a leaked memo by SERCO revealed that the company had dismissed similar incidents in Australia, instead accusing detainees of “creating a self-harm culture” and using it as a “bargaining tool”.
A similar mass hunger strike in Yarl's Wood in June 2009 was also met with violent assaults on detainees by SERCO security guards. Testimonies by detainees, many of whom had fled torture, rape and destitution, revealed that racial, psychological and physical abuse had been inflicted on them by SERCO staff.
Currently, women detained at Yarl's Wood are reportedly being paid 50pence an hour to do menial tasks, which is clearly an exploitation of this captive labour force.
SERCO’s offer, through its Senior Partnership Manager; Claire Michelotti, to attend Refugee Week celebrations in Manchester as part of its stakeholder engagement activities is a cynical manoeuvre. The presence of SERCO at this event will horrify and further traumatise any refugee who has gone through the inhumane treatment unleashed by the company.
Putting on a friendly face deceives no one.
10 UGLY FACTS ABOUT SERCO
1) Serco runs detainee escort services and electronically tags people seeking asylum.
2) Serco run Yarlswood detention centre in Bedfordshire and the Colnbrook detention centre near Heathrow Airport.
3) Serco has been the subject of many claims of abuse and assault by people seeking asylum being held in their detention centres.
4) Testimonies by detainees, many of whom had fled torture, rape and destitution, have revealed that racial, psychological and physical abuse had been inflicted on them by Serco staff.
5) Women detained at Yarl'swood detention centre are reportedly being paid 50pence an hour to do menial tasks, which is clearly exploitation of a captive labour force.
6) Serco dismissed the death of two people in their detention centres in Australia, accusing detainees of “creating a self-harm culture” and using it as a “bargaining tool” .
7) Serco is also taking over the management of an increasing number of public services in the UK, such as health centres and welfare programmes, where it is accused of prioritising profit over quality of service.
8) Serco is setting ridiculous timescales for the transition phase of their new housing contract: 10 days for single people and 14 days for families.
9) Serco claim to have a non-eviction policy but mobilisation of their contract in Scotland has already led to the proposed eviction into destitution of 83 people.
10) Serco were awarded this contract by the UKBA without accurate and up to date information about their service user group in Manchester.
24/03/2016 - Guest Blogger - ICO Orders Reports Release Regarding Immigration Detention Centres
After a long and hard fought 10-month battle, the Home Office has demanded the release of the reports that analyse the running of immigration detention centres in the UK.
These reports – demanded by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – are said to contain information that experts fear may be damaging to the reputations of the contracted operators of the detention centres. The main centres containing refugees that are under scrutiny are the two most prominent centres in the UK, Harmondsworth (the largest centre) and Colnbrook, which are based in West London.
The reason the reports have come to light is down to a freedom of information request made by Corporate Watch research group. Interestingly, both the Home Office and multiple governing officials have consistently fought against the request as they believe the information would have a detrimental impact on the commercial interests of the current
The reports were prepared and sent to the relevant Home Office officials by the contractors on a monthly basis since they started their operations. They are said to reveal thorough
insights into the actual running of the centres. Despite an acknowledgement by the ICO that the release would negatively affect the contractors involved, their final decision was that
the publics interest of the case outweighed that of the importance of the detriment and commercial interests of the contractors. In light of this, the Home Office have been given
until July 13th to release the reports into the public domain.
A huge factor which influenced the final decision was the fact that Immigration detention centres have been the result of a large amount of controversy in the media. Negative press has created a cause for concern and has put the matter in the eye of the public. The Information Commissioner’s Office stated “Given this publicly available criticism of the operation of these centres, the commissioner’s view is that there is in general a very strong public interest in other information about their operation”.
A further supporting argument for the decision, was the contractor’s fees which were involved in the running of these centres. As they are being financed using the public purse, the ICO claim the information is ‘highly relevant’ to taxpayers.
With the government increasingly choosing to outsource contracts to privatized companies, this decision by the ICO could be crucial as it would remove the exclusion to the Freedom of Information Act for government departments; an exemption upon which they have heavily relied in the past.
The Home Office currently have the opportunity to appeal the reports release decision but there isn’t any current news on whether they plan to do so or not.
Roman Winter: An aspiring freelance writer with a passion for law, property and politics.
24/10/2014 - G4S and Serco pay out £100,000 in youth restraint claims
Fourteen say unlawful measures used on them as children, with cases coming to light after deaths of two teenagers... Read on.
09/09/2014 - THE EVENING TIMES - Asylum seekers locked out of homes
VULNERABLE asylum seekers are being locked out of their homes and left destitute without warning, it was claimed today... Read On.
13/05/2014 - Call to bar G4S and Serco public sector contracts
G4S and Serco should be barred from bidding for public sector contracts while they are investigated for fraud, campaigners have said... See the full article here.
10/01/14 - Firms 'place asylum seekers in sub-standard housing'
Private security firms G4S and Serco have placed asylum seekers in sub-standard properties, according to a report by the National Audit Office.
See the full article here.
26/06/13 - Video: Home Affairs session
Home Affairs parliamentary session with G4S and Serco, and Movement for Justice, Amnesty International and Still Human, Still Here >>>
***New website launched***
A new website, 'Resist Privatising, Stop Serco', is now live at http://resistprivatisingstopserco.wordpress.com This is a site specifically concerned with the issue of the privatisation of asylum services and aims to act as a focal point for resistance to the same, and to expose the profit- rather than service-led manner in which the companies reaping the benefits of privatisation - Serco, G4S and Clearel - carry out asylum services.
25/07/12 - Nearly 40 people gathered last night to launch Resist Privatising Asylum Seeker Services throughout the UK - contracts have been awarded to CLEAREL, G4S, and SERCO.
An overview of problems from different areas of the UK was given at the meeting and it was agreed to form links between all groups who are resisting privatisation of public services, and to bridge the gap between trade unionists and refugees. A message of support was also read to the meeting from the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities and Belfast Migrant Centre who said “ We applaud RAPAR for taking an stand on this issue and support their concern about SERCO and their objections to SERCO as a service provider to asylum seekers”.
A model motion for use by trade unions, campaign groups and other organisations was unanimously agreed and is below and attached for you to put forward/circulate as widely as possible. There is also a SERCO briefing paper and the message from Northern Ireland Attached.
The first activists meeting for the North West will be at 6pm on Tuesday 31st July at RAPAR, Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount Street
Model motion for organisations, community groups, charities and Trade Union sections, shops and branches throughout the UK agreed at the public meeting to launch the Resist Privatising Campaign held on 240712 at Friends Meeting House Manchester.
This (organisation/community group/charity/Trade Union section/shop/branch) notes:
1. Publicly declare our solidarity with the resistance to the takeover and privatisation of Asylum Seeker Services by Global Multinationals CLEAREL, G4S, and SERCO by adding our name to local and national list of supporters.
2. Open up direct communication with the activists group in this area that is coordinating resistance to the takeovers, their associated privatisations and their human rights violations and invite a speaker to our next meeting.
3. Donate £X to the organisation/group that is leading the local resistance.
4. Put a motion forward to your relevant regional and national bodies asking for their support.
5. Ensure that the local resistance group is involved in all wider work that relate to stopping the cuts, privatisation and job losses.
6. Help finance the fares for people seeking asylum to travel to the 20th October National TUC march.
Please report back to firstname.lastname@example.org (or, if not in the North West, insert an appropriate alternative email for your region)
This model motion was unanimously agreed at this public meeting attended by people from a range of organisations that included Ashiana, Boaz Trust, Eagles Wing Bury, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, Imperial War Museum, Manchester Coalition Against Cuts(MCAC), Manchester National Union of Journalists(NUJ), No to G4S, RAPAR, Revive, Salford City Unison Branch and Women Asylum Seekers Together
18/07/12 - Serco ordered to improve failing GP service
Firm criticised by health regulator as role of private contractors comes under scrutiny following G4S's Olympics problems
Read the full article here.
12/07/12 - Public meeting!
STOP SERCO! Tuesday 24th July, 6:30pm. Main Hall, Friends' Meeting House, 6 Mount Street, Manchester, M2 5NS. All welcome. Click here for map.
16/06/12 - Demonstration in Glasgow!
RAPAR/Manchester delegation joined national anti-Serco demonstration in Glasgow today. Approximately one thousand demonstrators marched through Glasgow city centre to publicise the campaign against the privatisation of asylum services that is taking place throughout the UK. A group from Manchester, sponsored by Manchester-based Trades Unions, carried the RAPAR banner and a set of placards exposing SERCO’s foul track record on human rights. Thanks to Duncan Brown for the photos - see here for his Flickr set of the event.