The political consequences of privatising asylum

by Jonathan Darling

In March 2012, the UK government signed six contracts for the provision of accommodation for asylum seekers and their families. These contracts mark the latest phase in a process of accommodation termed ‘dispersal’ that has, since the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act, provided housing on a ‘no choice’ basis to asylum seekers across Britain. The contracts signed in 2012 became collectively known as COMPASS (Commercial and Operating Managers Procuring Asylum Support), and marked a significant shift in the landscape of asylum support. The COMPASS contracts transferred accommodation provision from a mixture of consortiums of local authorities, social housing associations and private providers, to just three private contractors - the multinational security services company G4S, the international services company Serco, and the accommodation partnership Clearel.