British contractor drops wristbands for refugees after outcry

A government contractor has dropped a requirement for refugees in the Welsh city of Cardiff to wear coloured wristbands, following claims by refugee agencies that the practice was similar to the public identification of Jews in Nazi Germany.

Jo Stevens, the Labour member of parliament for Cardiff Central, said an operations director of contractor Clearsprings Ready Homes told her the company would drop its use of the wristbands, which it had used to identify people entitled to food and other benefits.

"But the wristband issue is not over," Stevens said on Twitter. "I've written to the government minister with a series of questions about how this was allowed to operate in the first place."

The Welsh Refugee Council said it had raised the issue with the government after refugees complained that the wristbands made them easily identifiable in public and more likely to face discrimination and abuse.

"It harks back to the Nazi regime with people being forced to wear a Star of David and stand out," said Hannah Wharf, the refugee council's policy officer.

"It's absolutely appalling, it is treating people like lesser beings," Wharf said. "It is treating them like animals lining up to feed."

The controversy follows reports last week that another contractor, G4S, had painted many front doors red on houses provided to refugees in the north-eastern city of Middlesborough, making the occupants vulnerable to abuse by local residents.

"It is outrageous that, in the space of a week, two incidents have emerged that demonstrate a careless attitude by government subcontractors to the safety and well-being of vulnerable asylum seekers," said Stephen Hale, chief executive of London-based Refugee Action.

"Any measure by housing providers which stigmatizes or further isolates people who have already fled the horrors of war and persecution to seek safety in Britain has to be stopped," Hale said.

G4S said there was "categorically no policy to house asylum seekers behind red doors," but it promised to "address the issue by repainting front doors in the area so that there is no predominant colour."

Last update: Mon, 25/01/2016 - 17:48
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