Asylum Seekers are Placed in the Poorest Parts of the UK
An analysis of Home Office data by the Guardian has shown that more than five times as many asylum seekers in the UK live in the poorest third of the country than in the richest third. The study has revealed that asylum seekers are disproportionately housed in poor, Labour-voting areas in the north of England and Wales, and Glasgow.
At the end of 2016, there were 39,389 asylum seekers in the country receiving support from the government. Local authorities in the south-east house had 580 asylum seekers, which is 16 times less than those in the north-west (9,491). This is despite the population in the south-east outnumbering that of the north-west by 1.7 million people.
MPs have expressed outrage at the statistics, such as Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who labelled the system as ‘a deeply unfair shambles.’ Commenting on the tendency to place asylum hostels in a very small number of areas, Cooper said,
‘It’s not good for community cohesion, it’s not good for local authorities...it also creates a sense of resentment.’
Cooper has suggested that the problems stem from a 2012 policy by the Conservatives, which privatised the contracts for housing asylum seekers and gave them to G4S, Serco and Clearsprings. She claims that this inevitably led the companies to seek cheap housing procurements in the poorest parts of the country, resulting in 57% of all asylum seekers living in the country’s poorest third.
The financial burden of housing asylum seekers can be substantial for local authorities. Asylum seekers are entitled to basic healthcare and places in local schools, but local authorities are not given any additional money by central government to help with these costs. Stuart Macdonald, the SNP spokesman for immigration, asylum and border control has commented on the injustice of the system:
‘You have got local authorities like Middlesbrough or Glasgow having to spend considerable sums of money on educating and providing other services for asylum seekers, while other perfectly wealthy authorities don’t have to.’
Labour MPs have alleged that the Conservative government are deliberately placing asylum seekers in areas with Labour-led councils, something that Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale (which is home to 1,061 asylum seekers), has labelled as ‘appalling’. Indeed, local authorities in Labour areas house 11.6 asylum seekers per 10,000 of the population, compared with 0.7 asylum seekers per 10,000 in Conservative areas.
A spokesperson from the Home Office has responded to the findings: ‘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.’