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  1. ITV Report

Red front doors marked out asylum-seeker homes to hate gangs in Middlesbrough

Video report by ITV News' Ben Chapman

Asylum seeker homes in England's poorest town have reportedly been targeted by vandals and race hate gangs after being inadvertently "branded" by housing suppliers who had painted their front doors red.

The Home Office has ordered an urgent review into asylum-seeker housing in the north east after it was claimed the doors had been painted in the same colour to mark them out to company employees.

The homes are owned by a subcontractor of services giant G4S, reported The Times. The newspaper said the red paint treatment had introduced "apartheid on the streets of Britain" and was to blame for a series of hate attacks.

Sudanese resident Mohammed Abdal Albashir and housing campaigner Suzanne Fletcher tell ITV News the red doors had left people targeted.

Dog excrement has been smeared on the homes in Middlesbrough, while eggs and stones were thrown at windows and a National Front symbol had been scratched on a front door. Residents said they have faced regular verbal abuse.

The Times said 155 of the 168 Jomast houses it identified in two of Middlesbrough's most deprived areas had red front doors.

An asylum seekers' home - marked out by a red door - had been targeted by vandals with black paint.

Would-be refugees from Syria and eastern Europe said they felt marked out in the local area.

"They put us behind front doors. When people see them, everyone knows it means asylum seekers. It's like saying we're not the same as you," one man whose house was targeted told the newspaper.

Campaigners said they raised the issue with staff from G4S and its subcontractor Jomast and warned them the homes were left increasingly vulnerable to attack.

They also claimed a Home Office official attended "at least two meetings" at which complaints about the doors were raised.

G4S and Jomast recognised "the majority" of its doors were red but strenuously denied the claim the colour was used deliberately, describing claims of discrimination as "grotesque" and "ludicrous".

The Home Office has ordered an urgent review into asylum-seeker housing in the North East after reports of the attacks in Middlesbrough. Credit: PA Wire

The Home Office initially said G4S investigated the issue and said there was no policy to put asylum seekers in properties with specifically coloured doors.

But Immigration Minister James Brokenshire has ordered another investigation by government officials.

I am deeply concerned by this issue and I have commissioned Home Office officials to conduct an urgent audit of asylum seeker housing in the North East.

I expect the highest standards from our contractors. If we find any evidence of discrimination against asylum seekers it will be dealt with immediately as any such behaviour will not be tolerated.

– Immigration Minister James Brokenshire

G4S stressed its asylum accommodation is inspected frequently by the Home Office and has been found to "meet the required standards".

There is categorically no policy to house asylum seekers behind red doors. Our subcontractor Jomast has used red paint across many of its properties and it's grotesque to equate this with any form of discrimination.

Although we have received no complaints or requests on this issue from asylum seekers we house, in light of the concerns raised Jomast has agreed to address the issue by repainting front doors in the area so that there is no predominant colour.

– G4S spokesperson

The Times reported Jomast had committed to repainting the doors over the next three to six months.

Middlesbrough has Britain's highest concentration of would-be refugees. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Jomast managing director Stuart Monk echoed the statement from G4S in rejecting the uniformly painted doors as amounting to discrimination.

Our accommodation is inspected frequently by the Home Office and has been found to meet or exceed the required standards.

As many landlords will attest, paint is bought in bulk for use across all properties. It is ludicrous to suggest that this constitutes any form of discrimination, and offensive to make comparisons to a policy of apartheid in Nazi Germany.

However we have agreed to repaint doors in a range of colours after these concerns were brought to our attention.

– Jomast managing director Stuart Monk