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Migrants ask Sainsbury’s, IKEA, and Bravissimo to boycott Mitie

Women with experience of detention are calling for a boycott of facilities management company Mitie, which props up the UK’s immigration detention centres

The UK government’s appalling treatment of migrants in recent years has left some charities and activists feeling like trying to influence government policy is less of an uphill struggle and more of a brick wall.

The End Detention group and Women for Refugee Women have now launched a campaign that they feel has a real chance of winning. They’ve taken a new angle: instead of focusing on government policy, they are focusing on a corporate giant that provides the infrastructure needed for detention centres to operate: Mitie Group plc. 

They are asking people to contact three well-known consumer brands, Sainsbury's, Ikea, and Bravissimo, asking them to boycott Mitie. 

Sainsbury's, IKEA and Bravissimo have been chosen as targets of the campaign because they are well-known and have expressed commitments to supporting refugees and women's rights.

What is Mitie?

Mitie runs 50% of the Home Office’s detention facilities, including Derwentside, the main UK detention centre for women. The company’s logo is stamped everywhere inside the centres, making it clear to the detainees who are profiting from their confinement. 

Mitie has an annual revenue of £4bn that recruits over 70,000 people. It provides services such as management, catering, hygiene and personnel to entities like the Home Office, prisons, schools, train stations, the NHS, and a range of private companies.

Boycott Mitie

Serious human rights concerns have been raised about conditions in the detention centres Mitie is involved in running. In December 2022 it was revealed that male staff were being used in "constant supervision" of women at risk of suicide, a practice which Home Office guidance prohibits.

“Wretched” conditions were also reported by the borders watchdog which said he was left speechless during a visit to a migrant processing centre at Manston which Mitie manages. He says the centre had “already passed the point of being unsafe.” 

Migrants were supposed to be held at the short-term holding facility for 24 hours, however, the article shows that families had been kept there for weeks and lived in tented accommodation sleeping on kit mats in "wretched conditions". 

Similar reports have been made about Mitie-run detention facilities for several years. 

This is the first time a formal boycott call of Mitie over its role in detention centres has been called, but activist groups have targeted the company before.

In February 2023, a Durham university group Durham Student Action for Refugees (STAR) called on the university not to renew its cleaning and security contracts with Mitie, claiming that “Working with Mitie means that Durham is complicit in labour and human rights abuses against migrants”.

You can read more about Mitie in the box out below.

What’s the campaign strategy?

Carenza Arnold at Women for Refugee Women explains the campaign strategy:

“If these brands end their contracts with Mitie, they send out a message that says: we’re against the hostile environment, we’re a compassionate society, people are welcome here. A big brand saying this publicly means a lot.

“People trust brands, so if they use their voice it could reach an audience that might be reluctant to listen to charities and NGOs, which come with their own agendas. Brands can reach out into society in a way that charities that might not be able to. 

“We’re asking IKEA, Sainsbury’s and Bravissimo to use this special position to put their values into action, by showing support for migrants through cutting ties with Mitie.”


Support the campaign by contacting brands


IKEA has publicly committed to supporting people with refugee status through a partnership and employment programme. IKEA also claims that it has family and social values as part of its company ethos.

Send a letter to IKEA


Bravissimo focuses on supplying products to women in ways which champion inclusivity, fairness, and diversity. Yet Mitie runs the UK’s main women’s immigration detention centre. 

Send a letter to Bravissimo 


Sainsbury's offers employment opportunities to individuals with refugee status.

Send a letter to Sainsbury’s


Post to all the brands on social media 

You can share this image on social media (remember to tag the brands) or retweet the post below.


Life as a survivor

The majority of migrant women seeking refuge in the UK are survivors of rape, trafficking or torture. Despite this, they end up locked up in Home Office detention centres, which causes long-lasting damage to their mental health. 

Women who have experienced life inside detention centres came together in 2021, with support from Women for Refugee Women, to form the End Detention Group.

The End Detention Group says, “Being detained is harmful and lonely. It affected us mentally and physically. Detention is a nightmare, cutting off the dream of having peace and a normal life. It is like a desert where there is no hope. Yet Mitie profits from our pain and from our heartbreak. This isn’t right.”


More reasons to boycott Mitie

In support of this campaign, Ethical Consumer researched Mitie and found that it has an EthiScore of 0 – the worst you can get. 


Limiting the right to protest

Mitie provides services that aim to minimise the impact of protest activity. It proudly says that during Extinction Rebellion protests from 2019-21, Mitie’s Intelligence Hub reported on over 100 protests, and ran real-time alerts providing clients with pre-Rebellion intelligence. 

Involvement in military activity

Mitie lists “Defence and Aerospace" as sectors it operates in, and they have contracts with BAE Systems, the UK's largest weapons manufacturer. 

Supply chain management

Mitie received Ethical Consumer’s worst rating for Supply Chain Management and lost a whole mark in this category.

Mitie says it’s “one of the UK’s largest commercial solar PV developers” since it acquired Custom Solar, yet despite the prevalence of conflict minerals in materials commonly used in production, it has no policy safeguarding around this important human rights issue.


Anti-social finance

Mitie’s head office is based on level 12 of The Shard, London’s iconic luxury building. 

Its highest-paid director Phil Bentley received £3,869,476 in 2022.

It received our worst rating for tax conduct because it has subsidiaries in known tax havens including, Guernsey, Jersey, Ireland and Switzerland, including high-risk company types for tax avoidance such as holding and investment companies. It’s published no explanation for why the subsidiaries are based in tax havens. 

Lucrative nuclear clean-up contracts

Since 2003 Mitie has been awarded contracts around the decommissioning of the nuclear site Sellafield in the north of England. Over this period the Sellafield site has faced strikes from workers on site, been accused of site management bullying and sexually harassing staff, and of spending too much money.


Mitie scored our worst rating for toxic chemicals because despite being one of the largest specialist cleaning providers in the UK, it doesn’t have a policy that restricts the use of hazardous chemicals common in household cleaning products such as parabens and phthalates.

While Mitie has a 60-page environmental and social governance report, there’s little actual information in it about what its main areas of environmental impact are and what it’s doing about them. As such Mitie received Ethical Consumer’s worst rating for environmental reporting. 

It received a middle rating for its approach to carbon management and reporting because it has Science-Based Targets Initiative approved goals for its scope 1 and 2 emissions, however, it doesn’t currently report on its scope 3 emissions, which are often a large part of a company’s overall emissions.


The company website stated, "Mitie is one of the largest specialist cleaning providers in the UK" Therefore the company was likely to use large amounts of cleaning products, which is a product type at high risk of containing ingredients that have been tested on animals. Yet it had no policy related to animal testing – as such it received our worst rating for its animal testing policy.

It also provides catering services, yet provides no information about animal welfare. As such, it’s likely that the meat and dairy Mitie provides as part of its catering services are sourced from conventional farming methods. It lost a whole mark in both the Animal Rights and Factory Farming categories.