LONDON–The UK’s Home Office said Wednesday it will probe asylum seeker housing in North East England over complaints that the properties’ red doors identify them as targets for abuse. The announcement follows an investigation by the Times newspaper into properties run by Jomast, a subcontractor for security giant G4S, which provides asylum accommodation in the North East town Middlesbrough. Local asylum seekers told the Times they had been verbally abused, had their properties vandalized and had the sign of the far-right National Front carved on their front doors. “I am deeply concerned by this issue and I have commissioned Home Office officials to conduct an urgent audit of asylum seeker housing in the North East,” said Minister for Immigration James Brokenshire. “I condemn absolutely any actions that sow divisions within communities. We have been in contact with the local police, and they are actively considering any appropriate steps,” he added. The Times identified 168 properties run by Jomast, 155 of which had red front doors. The newspaper contacted the residents of 66 properties, 62 of whom were asylum seekers. “When people see them (the red doors), everyone knows it means asylum seekers,” said one man whose house was vandalized. Answering an urgent question asked in Parliament, Brokenshire said that “anything that identifies asylum seeker accommodation for those who may harm those accommodated in the properties must be avoided.” Local MP Andy McDonald said the doors “mark out those properties and its inhabitants for those with prejudicial motivations and evil intent” and risked “undermining social cohesion.” G4S said there was “categorically no … policy to house asylum seekers behind red doors” and that it had ordered Jomast to repaint some of the doors.
McDonald told Parliament that Jomast had suggested completing the work within three to six months — a timeframe he called “unacceptable,” saying it should be undertaken “as a matter of supreme urgency.” Local resident Suzanne Fletcher said the issue had been raised for four years. “In September 2012 we asked G4S if they would do something about the red doors and they replied that they had no intention of doing anything about it,” she told BBC radio.
“The police obviously have done everything that they can do but because asylum seekers are so vulnerable, they are frightened of jeopardizing their case, things haven’t always been reported,” she added. Local police declined to comment.