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Protesters take to street over housing conditions.

Byline: MIKE BROWN mike.brown@trinitymirror.com @MIKEBROWNGAZ

PROTESTERS gathered to demonstrate outside Jomast's offices for improvements to housing conditions for asylum seekers.

The Teesside-based property developer is behind a number of big schemes on Teesside, and also is contracted by security firm G4S to provide accommodation for asylum seekers in the region.

Members of Tyneside-based Migration and Asylum Justice Forum collected outside Jomast's Middlesbrough offices, on Queen's Square, for the action yesterday morning.

It's to do with claims that unrelated asylum seekers living in the company's properties in Newcastle are being forced to share bedrooms.

Standards of accommodation for asylum seekers are set out in the Home Office COMPASS contracts and providers are expected to comply with these. Last year, Newcastle City Council implemented a new standards policy for asylum seeker accommodation - which banned unrelated adults from room-sharing.

However, protesters still claim that asylum seekers have no choice but to share a room - and that Jomast is refusing to comply with the council's policy. The property firm said it is appealing the council's decision.

The Migration and Asylum Justice Forum said dozens of asylum seekers have been in touch with its campaign.

It claims one told the group: "I have no privacy, I have to share my space with another man who I don't know, who doesn't speak my language, doesn't speak English, we can't communicate - he is just as stressed as me!" But Stuart Monk, managing director at Jomast, said: "Jomast provides good accommodation in accordance with its contractual obligations.

"There are strict rules, in respect of which Jomast is fully compliant, regarding the housing of service users.

"The notices served by Newcastle City Council have been appealed and Jomast will proceed in accordance with the judicial process."

the and " The protest comes two years after a 'red door' controversy centred on Teesside.

the staged That erupted after it was revealed that the front doors of properties housing asylum seekers in Middlesbrough, mainly in the Gresham area, and Stockton were all painted red.

At the time, G4S and Jomast strenuously denied the claim that the colour was used deliberately, but recognised that "the majority" of doors in the housing stock were red.

They were later repainted, and Mr Monk said it was "ludicrous to suggest that this constitutes any form of discrimination".

Last January, a Home Affairs select committee report said that the failure of many councils, especially those in affluent areas of the country, was putting pressure on those areas that do. Middlesbrough and Stockton have always been among the areas taking in the highest numbers of asylum seekers.

That report used statistics from a 2016 Home Office audit that 69 of the 148 Teesside properties where asylum seekers lived had "urgent defects" which needed fixing.

But at that time, Mr Monk said Jomast had always provided "totally compliant" services and had a "very good track record", adding that repairs had "always been dealt with in the requisite time period".

CAPTION(S):

Michaela Wate, of the Migration and Asylum Justice Forum, at the protest staged by asylum seekers, below IAN MCINTYRE

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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 6, 2018
Words:514
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