(Adds background on government audit)
LONDON Dec 8 Britain extended by two years a
contract with G4S and Serco to provide
asylum-seekers with accommodation and said it would provide
extra funds to improve standards and widen the areas in which
asylum-seekers are housed.
The budget boost follows criticism of the so-called Compass
contracts over the standards of property and the time taken to
acquire housing for asylum-seekers.
In January, asylum seekers in the northern English town of
Middlesbrough said they were suffering abuse because they had
been housed in properties run by a G4S sub-contractor that
almost all had red front doors, making them easy targets.
The interior ministry subsequently carried out what it
called an urgent audit of housing for asylum seekers in the
The audit found that none of the 24 complaints relating to
anti-social behaviour or violence received by G4S in a two-year
period had raised the colour of the front door as the cause or a
factor in any incident, and there were no complaints solely
about the door colour.
"There has been considerable interest in the accommodation
and support that is provided to asylum-seekers," Immigration
minister Robert Goodwill said in a statement on Thursday.
"Therefore I have taken this opportunity to make changes and
additional investment to address the concerns that have been
raised and improve the services that are provided."
He did not specify how much extra money would be made
available but said it would allow accommodation providers to
increase their property portfolios if required and widen the
areas in which they operate.
"This will reduce the need to continually increase the
number of asylum seekers accommodated in certain communities,"
Goodwill said, adding that his department would closely monitor
the performance of service providers.
Both G4S and Serco said in statements that the contracts
would continue to be loss-making, with Serco adding that part of
the challenge was that the number of asylum seekers in its care
had doubled since the Compass contracts started in 2012.
G4S guided that the changes to the contract announced on
Thursday would not make a difference to an existing onerous
contract provision it had made, while Serco estimated its future
liabilities would be reduced by about 20 million pounds.
Shares in Serco closed 1.3 percent higher at 140 pence,
while G4S was up 0.8 percent at 224 pence.
(Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary and Stephen Addison, Editing by