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Red doors to be repainted over concerns they 'mark out asylum seekers' homes'

Published 20/01/2016

Immigration minister James Brokenshire has commissioned an investigation into the issue
Immigration minister James Brokenshire has commissioned an investigation into the issue

A property developer has said front doors will be repainted after concerns the homes of asylum seekers have been marked out in red, exposing them to racism and vandalism.

An urgent review of homes in the North East has been ordered by the Home Office over the properties in Middlesbrough which are owned by Jomast, a subcontractor of services giant G4S.

One Iranian asylum seeker told how he had been plagued by youths throwing eggs and prostitutes banging on his windows.

Mohammed Bagher Bayzavi, 58, who lives in Union Street, said: "Everyone here knows the red colour is Jomast. Change the colour - anything but red."

Jomast and G4S have denied the claim red paint has been used deliberately for the doors of properties housing asylum seekers, saying the colour has been used on "many" houses.

G4S said in a statement: " There is categorically no policy to house asylum seekers behind red doors. Our subcontractor Jomast has used red paint across across many of its properties and it's grotesque to equate this with any form of discrimination.

"Although we have received no complaints or requests on this issue from asylum seekers we house, in light of the concerns raised Jomast has agreed to address the issue by repainting front doors in the area so that there is no predominant colour."

Jomast said its accommodation is inspected frequently by the Home Office and meets the required standards.

Managing director Stuart Monk said the paint is usually bought in bulk for use across all properties, adding that it is "ludicrous to suggest that this constitutes any form of discrimination".

According to an investigation by The Times, of the 168 Jomast houses it identified in two of Middlesbrough's most deprived areas, 155 had red front doors.

The newspaper spoke to people living at 66 of the red-door houses. It said 62 were home to asylum seekers of 22 nationalities.

Of the four remaining properties two housed "former asylum seekers" and two housed British citizens.

The paper said one woman claimed yobs shouted: "F*** you dirty women. Get out of our country." Another said a National Front logo was carved in their red front door.

Immigration minister James Brokenshire said in a statement: "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.

"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."

Suzanne Fletcher, a local resident who chairs the Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary, said the issue has been raised previously with the Home Affairs committee, the National Audit Office and former Redcar MP Ian Swales.

She said some asylum seekers may not have reported attacks because they are "frightened of jeopardising their case".

Other people living in the area said they had not experienced any problems.

Somali asylum seeker Hassan Abukar, 25, shares a house with a red door in Essex Street with two Sudanese men.

Asked if locals knew about asylum seekers typically living in accommodation with red front doors, he said: "Everyone knows. It's not a problem for me. I have no problems here."

Rahumullah Ahmedi, 36, in nearby Costa Street, said he had experienced no racism or harassment in Middlesbrough, and he knew of some asylum seekers housed by Jomast who did not have red front doors.

It is unacceptable for asylum seekers to flee persecution and end up facing hate in Britain, the Refugee Council said.

Head of Advocacy Dr Lisa Doyle said: "It's completely unacceptable that asylum seekers - already the victims of persecution and unimaginable horror in their home countries - are being subjected to further abuse here in Britain, the very place they hoped to find safety."

Amnesty International said the Government must take some responsibility for negative attitudes to asylum seekers.

The organisation's refugee and migrant rights programme director Steve Symonds said: "No-one should have to live in fear of having dog excrement smeared on their door or stones thrown at their windows.

"We welcome the Home Office's pledge to review this, but ministers must face the fact they cannot absolve themselves from all responsibility when by their own rhetoric and policies they have demonised asylum seekers and other migrants.

"This only encourages such hateful acts while discouraging victims from seeking the support and protection they need."

Mr Monk said Jomast is obliged to log complaints but had not been made aware of any regarding the issue.

Asked about a case in which an asylum seeker claimed they had repainted their door white but were told by an official it had to be changed back because it was "not company policy", Mr Monk said he could not comment as he was not aware of the particular circumstances.

He told Sky News that it is possible the attem pt to repaint the door might not have been carried out "effectively with the result that it was probably not looking very satisfactory".

Following the news on Wednesday he said the firm had decided to take action.

He said: " We think that this has been blown out of all proportion but we are responding to it, and we are going to repaint the doors to make sure there isn't a predominant colour. I don't see what more we can do."

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