Offensive remarks about Syrian refugees, Chinese people and home secretary Priti Patel shared in group containing 80 Mitie employees
Die Huis kantoor is investigating allegations racist WhatsApp messages were sent by immigration staff at a firm paid to escort migrants to detention centres.
The Home Office said the claims were being investigated by its professional standards unit.
Mitie said it immediately began an investigation and suspended the staff concerned after the allegations were brought to its attention by a whistleblower.
However a spokesperson for the company later told the Guardian it had been made aware an allegation was previously raised but was not escalated in line with internal procedures.
The Sunday Mirror revealed the alleged messages were shared from March 2020 in a WhatsApp group called “Escorts meet and greet”, which contained 80 Mitie employees.
Mitie stressed the group, which has since been deleted, was “not a company channel”.
The messages reportedly contained offensive comments about Syrian refugees swimming to the UK and mocked TV’s Gary Lineker for inviting refugees into his home.
One person also shared an image showing a Chinese restaurant with a closed sign following the coronavirus lockdown in March 2020.
Underneath the photo, the author is said to have used a racial slur in an apparent reference to reports Covid originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Mitie did not confirm how many staff members had been suspended, maar die Guardian reported It was understood to be eight.
The company said in a statement: “There is no place for racism, boelies, or discrimination in our business and we encourage our colleagues to raise any concerns via our whistleblowing procedures so that we can take appropriate action.
“We know it can take courage to challenge unacceptable behaviour, and this is something we encourage all of our colleagues to do, so we appreciate this issue being brought to our attention.
“As soon as we were made aware we commenced an investigation which is ongoing.
“In light of the seriousness of the allegations, we have suspended those colleagues about whom complaints have been made, pending the outcome of the investigation.”
A spokesperson for the Home Office added: “The Home Office is investigating the allegations relating to Mitie staff’s behaviour and conduct.
“Mitie will update the immigration minister update next week on the steps being taken to ensure the highest standards are always met and that individuals in their care are treated with dignity and respect.”