Created: Monday, 26 March 2018 17:27
Written by Newcastle Branch
On 23 March, the Migration and Asylum Justice Forum (MAJF), which is supported by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! North East demonstrated outside the tribunal where Home Office housing subcontractor Jomast were challenging a number of Environmental Health orders issued against them by Newcastle City Council over conditions in asylum housing. The campaign ensured the issue of overcrowding and unfit conditions in Jomast properties came to national prominence with coverage in The Independent. We also got a chance to challenge Jomast owner Stuart Monk (wealth in excess of £185m) as he left the tribunal.
MAJF has been central to the campaign for reforms to the appalling conditions in the appalling, overcrowded conditions asylum seekers are forced to live in. Asylum housing is currently tendered out under the COMPASS Contract to private companies; G4S holds the largest share of these, including in the north east where it subcontracts to Jomast a property management and redevelopment company. Jomast boasts real estate assets in excess of £250m and owns vast amounts of property in Teesside, Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland.
Jomast’s housing provision for asylum seekers is overcrowded and squalid. The campaign has documented and raised complaints about bedbugs, broken cookers, leaking ceilings and black mould. To reduce costs as low as possible, single adults are regularly forced to share their bedrooms, often with complete strangers. Facilities are inadequate for the number of tenants. Forced bedroom sharing has been identified as a major source of tension, with the Home Affairs Select Committee finding that bedroom sharing has a detrimental impact on mental health. Earlier in the month, MAJF organised a picket of Jomast’s Middlesbrough offices, supported by a number of other groups campaigning for migrants and asylum seekers, and forced the headquarters to close for the day. Last year, Newcastle City Council passed a policy against room sharing but Jomast refused to cooperate. MAJF put pressure on the council to act, addressing a full council meeting and demanding they take action. The campaign passed on addresses where bedroom sharing was taking place, pushing the council to inspect several Jomast properties. The Environmental Health department issued seven notices under Section 139 of the Housing Act 2004, stating that the properties were over-occupied. Now Jomast has challenged the council at a tribunal. A ruling is expected in about six weeks. If Jomast loses, this could set a precedent for other councils in the region and nationally. Whatever the outcome, MAJF will continue the fight for decent conditions for asylum seekers. One room, one person! One house, one family!