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G4S - 'securing' their world, not ours

Despite its inability to fulfil its London 2012 contract, the rise and rise of G4S is the story of the privatisation of the state and an increasing emphasis on “threats” and “security concerns” aimed at keeping people in thrall to authority.

G4S is no ordinary corporation. It operates in more than 125 countries and has 675,000 employees. Group turnover last year was £7.5 billion, mostly derived from state contracts around the world, with 30% of revenues coming from “developing markets”. Pre-tax profits were up 2.1% to £531m.

The self-styled “world's leading international security solutions group” has cashed in on the drive by the state to divest itself of more and more functions like prisons, crowd control and significant parts of the police service. As the company’s website declares: “In more ways than you might realise, G4S is securing your world.”

Of course, it’s not “our world” so much as their world – the rich, the bankers, the state, and the corporations that G4S helps to secure. And nowhere is “security” more on the state’s lips than in Israel, which continues to occupy Palestinian lands in defiance of countless UN resolutions.

As a sub-contractor of the Israeli occupation, G4S, according to the Palestinian grass roots movement Stop the Wall, is involved in human rights abuses and violations of international law. Through its subsidiary G4S Israel (Hashmira) it provides:

Palestinian prisoners are, of course, mostly tried in military courts while others are held in detention under laws dating from the British mandate. Many prisoners have taken to hunger strikes to force their plight into the public arena. G4S also transfers Palestinians to and from interrogation centres.  

Campaigners add:

Yet Israel continues to build new settlements and expands older settlements, stealing Palestinian land and resources. While G4S profits from ‘securing’ these illegal settlements, the IOF [Israeli Occupation Forces] restricts Palestinian movement and violently repress any dissent in the name of ‘security’.

In Britain, over 700 complaints have been filed against G4S over the treatment of immigrant detainees, of which 130 were upheld. There have been 48 assault complaints. There has been particular criticism of the treatment of detainees held at Brook House immigration removal centre near Heathrow .

In 2010 it lost a Home Office forcible deportation contract after the death of an Angolan deportee, Jimmy Mubenga, while being restrained on a flight back to Angola. A report by the Commons home affairs committee condemned G4S over its treatment and said the number of complaints likely did not reflect the true number of cases of abuse.

In South Yorkshire, where G4S won a £30 million contract to take over asylum seekers housing, a sub-contractor has started evicting people and moving them into unsuitable accommodation miles away.
G4S is laughing all the way to the bank, however. Confidential Home Office documents seen by the Daily Telegraph show that fees paid to G4S for managing civilian security staff for the London Games have soared from £7.3 million to £60 million. The same company failed to recruit sufficient staff, leaving the government to call in the army.
It’s not just cost savings that have driven the capitalist state to “outsource” security to firms like G4S. The aim is also to shed responsibility for services like health, housing, pensions and education as far as possible, creating new markets for all sorts of companies. So where does that leave the present state’s legitimacy, its “right” to rule over us. The Olympic security farrago confirms that it is virtually non-existent.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor
13 July 2012

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