Further calls for asylum seeker distribution change

Exterior of Britannia Hotel, Almond Brook Road, Standish - where asylum seekers are staying
Exterior of Britannia Hotel, Almond Brook Road, Standish - where asylum seekers are staying

WIGAN political representatives have backed calls for a fairer distribution of asylum seekers and refugees around the country.

Concerns have been voiced that areas in northern England, Scotland and Wales are facing the largest ratios while struggling with unemployment deprivation.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy said northern authorities have been let down by the government’s “shambolic handling of the dispersion system.”

Home Office figures show Greater Manchester has three areas in the UK’s top 10 in terms of asylum seeker to resident ratio; Rochdale, Oldham and Bolton. Wigan does not sit in the top 10 list.

Ms Nandy said: “People in Wigan have been typically generous in welcoming refugees but we are consistently let down by the government’s shambolic handling of the dispersal system.

“Ministers seem content to hand over all responsibility to private companies and refuse to act, even when refugees are allocated unsuitable housing and tensions arise.

“We need a proper national plan to ensure that refugees are not simply placed into the cheapest areas but given suitable accommodation in communities who have the reassurance, resources and information they need to support them.”

Wigan has had an influx of asylum seekers in recent months, dozens of which have been temporarily housed at the Britannia Hotel in Standish. And the borough is expected to house a number of Syrian refugees in 2016.

Mike Connolly, leader of Bury Council and Greater Manchester’s lead member on asylum seekers and refugees, said: “GM authorities, with support from the Regional Strategic Migration Partnership (RSMP), have made the point very clearly to Government that we consider the high concentration of asylum seekers - relative to other parts of the country - currently accommodated across our area to be unacceptable.”

Middlesbrough is the only local authority to have surpassed the Government’s guideline of 1:200 asylum seekers to residents, said it had “far exceeded its fair allocation”. The town, where one in every 173 residents was an asylum seeker living in dispersed accommodation, was at the centre of the red doors controversy last week.

It emerged some asylum seekers felt stigmatised because their accommodation provided by Jomast, sub-contracted by services giant G4S, had red doors.

A spokesman for GM councils said: “We have consistently said we are ready and willing to support refugees through the Syrian resettlement programme. But this must be in the context of ensuring appropriate processes are developed with appropriate funding, meeting the needs of the individuals being resettled without a detrimental impact on services for residents.”