Fury over red doors for asylum seekers
The UK government has ordered an urgent inquiry into allegations that asylum seekers have become targets for racists in a northern English town because they have been housed in properties with distinctive red doors.
The houses in Middlesbrough are owned by a subcontractor of services giant G4S, a contractor which has been embroiled in a series of recent scandals.
After a report about the red doors appeared on the front page of The Times newspaper this week, a spokesman for G4S said its subcontractor, Jomast, would repaint the doors. Jomast said it was “ludicrous” to suggest it had practiced discrimination.
Asylum seekers described having eggs and stones thrown at their windows, dog excrement smeared on their doors, and racist jibes shouted at them, The Times reported.
Britain has not received migrants in the same huge numbers that arrived in other European countries last year, but public concerns over immigration are running high and tensions have risen in some communities with large numbers of migrants.
“Many of our asylum seekers feel the red doors make them a target,” said Pete Widlinski, manager of local group Justice First, which offers support to claimants.
He told reporters that he and others had raised the issue with G4S and Jomast several times, but the asylum seekers’ concerns had been ignored until now.
UK Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said he had ordered an urgent audit of housing for asylum seekers in northeast England, which is provided by G4S under a government contract.
“Anything which identifies asylum seeker accommodation to those who may wish to harm those accommodated in the properties must be avoided,” he told parliament, urging anyone who had suffered racist abuse to contact the police.
The Times quoted Ahmad Zubair, from Afghanistan, as saying he had repainted his front door white to stop the abuse, but a Jomast worker had repainted it red citing company policy.
“Asylum houses have red doors. Everyone knows that,” Zubair was quoted as saying. “People were shouting outside the house, calling us hate words, throwing things at our windows,” he said.
The Times said it had identified 168 houses owned by Jomast of which 155 had red doors.
The reporters spoke to people living at 66 of the properties with red doors and found that 62 of them housed asylum seekers of 22 nationalities.
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”.
McDonald told the British parliament that Jomast had suggested completing the repainting work within three to six months – a timeframe he called “unacceptable”, saying it should be undertaken “as a matter of supreme urgency”.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist