More than 700 asylum seekers are currently residing in Wigan, new figures have shown.
According to the figures, released by the Home Office, 739 asylum seekers were claiming support from the Government in the borough towards the end of 2015.
Despite lobbying at Greater Manchester level Wigan, and its neighbouring authorities, has been forced to bear an unfair number of asylum seekers as a consequence of this failing policyLord Smith
Other authorities in Greater Manchester including Bolton, Rochdale and Manchester are also accommodating more than 1,000 asylum seekers each, compared to other local authority areas in the south where there are no asylum seekers registered at all.
The figures have prompted Lord Peter Smith to speak out against the Home Office’s allocation policy which he has branded as “unfair”.
Lord Smith said: “This government has failed to control asylum seeker numbers or manage the fair dispersal of asylum seekers throughout the country.
“Despite lobbying at Greater Manchester level Wigan, and its neighbouring authorities, has been forced to bear an unfair number of asylum seekers as a consequence of this failing policy.
“Wigan is a friendly and welcoming borough. Our appeal to help Syrian asylum seekers last year resulted in thousands of donations from the public.
“We are more than willing to do our fair share to help those who are in need of asylum and provide them with decent accommodation, safety and security.
“However, the Home Office and its partner Serco now need to urgently apply a fairer policy which spreads the number of asylum seekers fairly across the country and prevent a small number of areas bearing an unfair burden.
“I would also urge those local authorities who are not currently helping to accommodate asylum seekers to volunteer to be part of the scheme and do their fair share.”
Asylum seekers, who have fled their home country, are eligible to claim Section 95 funding from the Home Office if they are classed as destitute while their application to stay in the country as a refugee is being considered.
The figures show that the number in Wigan has risen dramatically since 2012 when there were just 247 in the first quarter but, in 2004, there were 731 in the first quarter of the year.
Wigan’s MP Lisa Nandy said: “Ministers have told me they are working to ensure a more even distribution of people across the country but they need to explain why councils like Windsor and Maidenhead were only asked to resettle 15 refugees in the whole of 2015.
“I’m proud that the people of Wigan have shown such kindness to people fleeing persecution. Now it’s time for the government to step up, play its part and plan this system better.”
The current situation in the borough has spurred some controversy, especially surrounding the number of asylum seekers being housed in the Britannia Hotel in Standish, which was the focus of a controversial petition calling for them to be removed.
Coun Mike Connolly, GMCA Lead Member for Asylum Seekers and Refugees, said: “We’ve always welcomed people who come here and we’re more than happy to play our part in helping people start a new life here.
“To do this we need a proper partnership with central government.
“I’ve met with Home Office Ministers and made clear that we think it’s time that other local authorities, not just across the North West but across the UK, do their bit to help settle those who choose to come here.”