WIGAN’S council leader has spoken of his desire to support refugees, but has called for a fairer way of dispersing them across the country.
Lord Peter Smith took to Twitter to air his stance on the current crisis of thousands of asylum seekers crossing the English border to source better living conditions, saying the borough will take them in - but more needs to be done in other regions.
He posted: “Wigan to take Syrian refugees but will look for a fairer dispersal than current asylum scheme. Thanks to Wigan public for generous donations.”
The leader’s comments come a couple of weeks after Tony Lloyd, interim Mayor for Greater Manchester, called on the Government to place asylum seekers more evenly across the country and reconsider its procedures in dispersing immigrants who have crossed the borders.
There are more than 5,000 immigrants staying in Greater Manchester, with 700 being temporarily housed in flats in Scholes and rooms at the Britannia Hotel in Standish.
The figure for the North West is more than six times the number of refugees living in London.
The Home Office said people seeking aid were housed “where there is available and appropriate accommodation.”
A statement issued by them said: “Agreements between the government and local authorities are voluntary and have been in place since 2000. We review this regularly, working closely with local authorities to ensure that the impact of asylum dispersals are considered and acted upon. This includes monitoring existing arrangements and the impact on local services and community cohesion.”
Referring to concerns Wigan may be housing too many refugees, Mick Taylor, co-ordinator for SWAP (Support for Wigan’s Arrivals Project), said: “Negative views are often strongly held when people are struggling financially or worried about keeping their jobs, but I believe there’s much bigger issues at stake in our society than relatively small numbers of people trying to seek asylum in other countries.”
Lord Smith has publicly thrown his support behind the council’s appeal for clothes, medical items and toys for the refugees, in partnership with Wigan SWAP and Syria Relief.
Donations can be made at the borough’s libraries and Life Centres,
Lord Smith said: “Many of us have been moved by the images of refugees who are risking their lives to seek a safe haven.
“We want this appeal to show that, as a community, we really do care about those in the world who are most in need and to give generously.”