Suspicions are running high in the northern English city of Middlesborough, which has welcomed the highest number of refugees and asylum seekers since the start of the current crisis.
Refugees say they have been concentrated in homes with red doors, and that the doors are being used by racists to identify them, and then attack their families.
Landlord Jomast says it is coincidence that much of its city housing stock has red doors. But it seems the word has got out about the new residents.
Jamal from Syria says he and his fellow asylum seekers have quickly found out that living behind a red door in Middlesborough invites midnight disturbances and a lack of respect.
Jomast is owned by controversial security giant G4S, and now a government minister has got involved and is demanding an inquiry to find out what has happened in this immigration hotspot.
“I have asked Home Office officials to look into this matter as a matter of urgency and report to me and to the Permanent Secretary,” said Immigration Minister James Brokenshire.
At Jomast bosses are perplexed as to how the row has blown up into a national issue.
“It was not an intended form of discrimination at all and I don’t accept that as being a valid comment. We haven’t had or received a complaint from an asylum-seeker. I don’t accept the criticism,” said Managing Director Stuart Monk.
Few are suggesting malicious intent but some are pointing to Jomast and parent G4S’s past business practise records. One criticism noted the issue of door colours had been raised as far back as 2012, and added Jomast had failed to listen to residents or adapt policy to the circumstances.
This eyewitness comment from a British newspaper reader in a related article, written from the nearby town of Stockton-on-Tees, is illuminating:
“I live in stockton on Tees and work in the local community. I was party to a report comissioned in the area that examined the needs of asylum seekers in the tees valley. In addition to painting asylum seekers doors red, until just over a year ago door jams of asylum seekers had coloured stripes painted on them which corresponded to the area of the world the came from.
Green for Africa, yellow for middle east etc. It was so that jomast employees could drive around an area and single out all of the asylum seekers from one particular region to inspect without having to go to the trouble of generating tenant lists.
Concerns over the red painted doors have been known for years. Jomast have repeatedly refused to change the colour, even when new doors have been fitted.
Not content with this, jomast regularly separate families, housing the men in Middlesborough and their wives and children in stockton, usually 14 miles apart. They are meant to provide support and direction to local services, including the charity sector, but in the past 4 years our services have had two referrals from jomast. When approached to be party to services which would be fully free for them, they have refused.
I honestly wish I could say that this was rumour or rabble rousing. But I’ve experienced first hand the casual indifference and offhand dismissal asylum seekers in Middlesbrough and stockton are treated with by jomast.
And despite that, jomast are considered one of the better housing providers for asylum seekers. What a sorry state.”