The front doors of houses used by asylum seekers are to be repainted, after claims they were targeted because nearly all of the doors were red.
Asylum seekers in Middlesbrough told The Times eggs and stones had been thrown at their houses because the doors made them easy to identify.
The immigration minister said he was “deeply concerned” about the issue.
G4S said there was no policy to house asylum seekers behind red doors but its subcontractor would be repainting them.
‘Anything but red’
The Times visited 168 houses in Middlesbrough owned by Jomast, a subcontractor for the global security firm G4S, and found 155 had red doors.
Former local councillor Suzanne Fletcher told the BBC’s Today programme she had raised the issue with G4S as far back as 2012 but was told the company would not ask Jomast to repaint the doors.
She went on to submit evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Public Accounts Committee and National Audit Office.
She said: “Over four years ago when I was working with groups of asylum seekers, they were worried it marked them out and were worried about attacks.”
Iranian asylum seeker Mohammed Bagher Bayzavi, 58, said he asked for a different coloured front door after being plagued by disturbances.
He said: “Everyone here knows the red colour is Jomast. Change the colour – anything but red.”
Neighbours whose homes did not have red doors were not targeted, he added.
G4S said Jomast had no policy to house asylum seekers behind red doors but accepted the majority of doors, both for private and asylum accommodation, were painted red.
Stuart Monk, owner of Jomast, described the idea that red is used to mark out asylum seekers as “ludicrous”.
He said: “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.”
Responding to an urgent question in the House of Commons from Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald, Home Office minister James Brokenshire said an audit of asylum seeker accommodation in the North East would be undertaken.
He said Home Office staff had been sent to Middlesbrough to ensure the doors were repainted and that government-imposed standards were being upheld.
He described the situation as “deeply concerning”.
The charity Refugee Council said it “has long held concerns about the quality and security of asylum accommodation”.
It added: “The government must not tolerate its contractors taking a lax attitude towards housing these vulnerable people. Such an approach is clearly jeopardising their safety.”
G4S said in a statement: “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.
“Our asylum accommodation is inspected frequently by the Home Office and has been found to meet the required standards.”