A Home Office contractor is to withdraw its use of red wristbands for asylum seekers in Cardiff hoping to receive food and replace them with photo ID following outcry. Clearsprings Ready Homes, a private company contracted by the government office, was found to be making asylum seekers living at Lynx House in the Welsh capital wear the wristbands in order claim their allocated breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The red wristband controversy follows news that asylum seekers in Middlesbrough feared being singled-out for abuse because they were living in homes with red-painted doors. Both incidents have been condemned as reminiscent of tactics used by the Nazi regime.
Jo Stevens, the shadow justice minister and Labour MP for Cardiff Central, previously said she is going to speak to the Home Office to voice her "grave concerns" over the red wristbands. She is also expected to ask questions in the House of Commons later about how such a scheme got the go-ahead.
She told the Guardian: "The reported abuse is completely unrepresentative of the kindness and generosity that my constituents and people across the whole of Cardiff have shown to asylum seekers and refugees over a long period of time. I will also be contacting the Home Office minister to get answers to my questions about the adequacy of the monitoring of initial accommodation services contracts by the Home Office."
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said the Home Office should face "serious questions" about the situation. She added: "I have been told that this alarming practice of forcing asylum seekers to wear coloured wristbands will be stopped. It is understandable the Home Office requires asylum seekers to carry some form of identification for practical reasons such as when they collect meals.
"However, such a visible indicator is unnecessary and has left a community already under suspicion open to further harassment and distress. I will be writing to the Home Secretary to seek assurance that this practice will not be repeated anywhere else in the UK."
One former resident of Lynx House described how they "hated" wearing the wristbands but would be refused food if they did not wear one. Eric Ngalle, 36, told the Guardian: "On the road we had to walk down there is often heavy traffic. Sometimes drivers would see our wristbands, start honking their horns and shout out of the window, 'Go back to your country.' Some people made terrible remarks to us."
The Welsh Refugee Council (WRC) said the wristbands were reminiscent of the yellow Star of David the Jewish people were forced to wear by the Nazis.
WRC policy officer Hannah Wharf said: "We have raised the matter many times with the Welsh Government. It harks back to the Nazi regime with people being forced to wear a Star of David and stand out. It's absolutely appalling, it is treating people like lesser beings. It is treating them like animals lining up to feed."
A spokesperson for Clearsprings Ready Homes said: "Asylum seekers who spend their initial few weeks at our full board accommodation in Cardiff have been provided with wristbands since May 2015 to ensure they receive the services they are entitled to and to make sure those more vulnerable asylum seekers have access to their specific requirements.
"As in numerous such establishments where large numbers of people are being provided with services, wristbands are considered to be one of the most reliable and effective ways of guaranteeing delivery.
"We are always reviewing the way we supply our services and have decided to cease the use of wristbands as of the Monday 25th of January and will look for an alternative way of managing the fair provision of support. Clearsprings Ready Homes have been providing accommodation services to asylum seekers on behalf of the Home office for over 15 years and are always grateful for feedback to help improve the safety and effectiveness of their services."