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With Doors Painted Red, Asylum Seekers Face Threats in UK

G4S subcontractor reportedly enforced policy of keeping asylum seekers' doors red

Iranian asylum seeker Mohammed Bagher Bayzavi said his home was targeted for abuse because of its red door. (Photo: PA)

The notorious security company G4S will repaint the front doors of asylum seekers in the UK after initially coating them in bright red, which the asylum seekers said made them targets for abuse.

Refugees living in Middlesbrough, a town which has historically struggled with low employment and high crime rates, told the Times UK that the doors made them easily identifiable and had led to their homes being targeted with eggs, stones, dog excrement, and graffiti displaying the symbol of the National Front, a far-right political party which opposes non-white immigration.

G4S subcontractor Jomast, which owns the homes and painted the doors, said Wednesday it would change the color after initially denying the company was singling out asylum seekers.

The UK's Home Office on Wednesday launched an inquiry into the company's policies after hearing reports of abuse. Immigration minister James Brokenshire said he was "deeply concerned" by the issue.

"I expect the highest standards from our contractors. If we find any evidence of discrimination against asylum seekers it will be dealt with immediately as any such behaviour will not be tolerated," Brokenshire said Wednesday.

In one case, asylum seekers said they had painted their door white to escape the stigmatization, only to have Jomast repaint it red after a company employee visited and told them it was "against company policy."

Jomast, which holds the asylum contract for the UK's northeast, owns at least 168 houses in Middlesbrough, of which 155 have red doors. At least 62 of those homes are occupied by asylum seekers.

Mohammed Bagher Bayzavi, a Middlesbrough resident from Iran, said he had asked for his door to be repainted after he had been targeted for abuse. "Everyone here knows the red color is Jomast," Bayzavi said. "Change the color—anything but red."

Jomast also reportedly owns many red-door properties housing asylum seekers in Stockton-on-Tees.

The case, which received media attention following the Times UK's report, has been ongoing for several years. Suzanne Fletcher, a Middlesbrough resident and chair of the Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary, told BBC Today that she had raised the issue with G4S in 2012, but was told the security firm would not ask Jomast to repaint the doors.

"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," Fletcher said.

The Refugee Council, a UK-based charity that helps resettle asylum seekers, said it "has long held concerns about the quality and security of asylum accommodation."

"The government must not tolerate its contractors taking a lax attitude towards housing these vulnerable people. Such an approach is clearly jeopardizing their safety," the group said.

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