UK’s poor areas carry the burden of supporting asylum seekers
More than half of all asylum seekers in the UK live in areas that make up the poorest third of the country while the richest third of the nation houses just 10 per cent, according to an analysis by The Guardian news website.
Using data from Britain’s Home Office, The Guardian found more than five times as many asylum seekers in the poorest part of the country compared to the richest.
One UK Labour MP has labelled the situation “a deeply unfair shambles”.
The Labour Opposition says the problem dates back to 2012 when the Conservative4 Government of David Cameron privatised the housing of asylum seekers and reduced funding, which meant that companies sought to procure cheap housing in poor areas.
“You’ve got the asylum hostels concentrated in the lowest income areas and also in a very small number of areas. It’s just not fair to do it that way. It’s not good for community cohesion, it’s not good for local authorities … it also creates a sense of resentment,” said Labour MP Yvette Cooper.
In the town of Rochdale, near Manchester, one in every 200 people is an asylum seeker.
At the end of 2016 there were 39,389 asylum seekers in the country receiving some support from the government.
The north-west of the UK houses 9,491 asylum seekers, 16 times the number accommodated by local authorities in the south-east (580), despite the south-east having a population 1.7 million larger than the north-west.
Ten local authorities are responsible for supporting more than one third of all asylum seekers in the UK (35.5 per cent). Six of these – Manchester, Bolton, Rochdale, Nottingham, Leicester and Swansea – have a median annual income that places them in the poorest 25 per cent of the country, The Guardian says.
People who claim asylum in Britain are provided with accommodation while their application is being processed. They are sent to local councils which have agreed to participate in the asylum dispersal scheme.
While waiting for their claims to be heard, asylum seekers are entitled to basic healthcare and children are given places in local schools, but local authorities are not given any additional payment by central government to help cover these costs.
The Guardian analysis also found that asylum seekers are sent overwhelmingly to areas with Labour-led councils.
On average, local authorities with Labour-led councils house 11.6 asylum seekers per 10,000 population, while local authorities with Conservative-led councils have 0.7 asylum seekers per 10,000.
There are 174 local authorities – or 45 per cent of the total – that do not house any asylum seekers. Sixty-nine per cent of all local authorities house fewer than 10 asylum seekers.
Of those local authorities that house no asylum seekers, 62.6 per cent have Conservative-led councils and 10.9 per cent are Labour-led.
“This is a system that has been set up by a Conservative government. They ought to make sure Conservative councils then do their bit and they are not doing so,” Ms Cooper told The Guardian.
“Labour areas in good faith have said: ‘We will do our bit,’ and the unfair consequence is they are then being asked to do far more than their bit,” she said.
While councils volunteer to house asylum seekers, they then have little control over how many asylum seekers come to the area. The Home Office has set a limit that the number of asylum seekers in each local authority should not exceed one per 200 people.
In December the number of asylum seekers in Glasgow – 3,311 – breached this limit with 1.09 per 200 people. Rochdale is also teetering on the edge of the limit with 0.99 per 200.
Local authorities have the right to veto the use of properties to house asylum seekers, although these vetoes can be overridden by the Home Office or the private housing provider, The Guardian says.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection and we are committed to providing safe and secure accommodation while applications are considered”.
“Asylum seekers who require support are housed where there is appropriate accommodation available. Agreements between the government and participating local authorities are voluntary and our dispersal policy ensures a reasonable spread among UK local authorities.
“We have worked hard to encourage more local authorities to participate in accommodating asylum seekers and ensure this duty is shared across the UK,” the spokesperson said.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist