By Isabel Ringrose
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2799

Mitie under investigation over Home Office immigration contracts

The outsourcer is one of many firms that profits from Britain’s racist immigration system of detention and deportation
Issue 2799
A protester hold a sign saying windrush justice means amnesty illustrating a story on Mitie contracts

A protest against deportations in south London in 2020 (Picture: Socialist Worker)

While migrants struggle to find safety in Britain, companies ready to deport them are being investigated for breaking rules to grab as much profit as possible. Home Office outsourcer Mitie was raided by investigators to examine documents and emails between senior staff. 

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is currently looking into the relationship between Mitie and US firm PAE. The companies operate a joint venture, Landmarc, for the Ministry of Defence. But they were competing to run Home Office immigration removal centres at Derwentside in County Durham and Heathrow in west London. 

Mitie expects to be “fully exonerated” and PAE believes the CMA’s investigation is “unfounded”. In a statement to its investors Mitie blames Home Office tendering rules for its withdrawal from the bidding of the Derwentside contract.

But investigators are largely focusing on a separate case over Colnbrook immigration centre at Heathrow after the Home Office referred both companies to the CMA. They were bidding on the contract until PAE pulled out last year, clearing the way for Mitie. The CMA is investigating whether breaches of competition law took place and is looking at the relationship between the companies.

Mitie CEO Phil Bentley grabbed £2.7 million in 2021 and £2 million the year before. The company got £1.1 billion, around 42 percent of its revenue, from local and central government contracts.

Mitie brags that it is “the largest provider of immigration removal centre management” for the Home Office. Underneath the competition, contracts and profits are refugees and migrants who face life and death at the prospect of being detained and removed from Britain.

Vulnerable people in Mitie’s care awaiting deportation are driven to suicide. Horrific conditions in its detention centres mean misery for those awaiting an uncertain return to the country they fled from.

In the Colnbrook detention centre near Heathrow in 2017, Mitie failed numerous times to provide adequate suicide and self-harm prevention assistance, an inquiry found. Systemic failures led to missing “significant warning signs” and inadequate risk assessments by untrained staff, which contributed to deaths.

And in 2016 another man just weeks after arriving at Colnbrook began vomiting and coughing until he died. Inspectors found “chronic” staff shortages affected the quality of healthcare and “the environment in which detainees were kept was often poor.”

More than 3,000 refugees arrived in boats across the English Channel this month, compared to 831 in March 2021. Some 4,559 have made the crossing so far this year.

The Home Office was recently found guilty of operating a secret policy to seize almost 2,000 mobile phones from refugees arriving in Britain. It then downloaded data from these phones.It claims this helped gather evidence about people smugglers. In reality the illegal policy was designed to bully and intimidate those arriving in Britain.

For the Tories, more crossings are an excuse to push ahead with their racist Nationality and Borders Bill. It will criminalise anyone entering Britain without official documentation as “illegal”. Despite the vast majority of refugees being granted asylum, the new rules will mean more deportations.

But the Tories’ failing schemes for Ukrainian refugees shows that there is no “legal” alternative. Since the start of March, 22,800 visas have been issued only to Ukrainians joining relatives. Just 2,700 visas had been granted under the Homes for Ukraine scheme as of Wednesday.

Two weeks on, the scheme has faced widespread criticisms for its inadequacy, slowness, bad design and accessibility for non-English speakers. Many documents are also needed, but it’s not realistic that refugees fleeing war zones have bank statements or documents proving they are from Ukraine.

With more people fleeing wars and harsher Tory laws, companies that deal in death are looking to rake in millions more at vulnerable people’s expense. 

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