A Wigan support group is urging other local authorities to step up and “pull their weight” for asylum seekers after it emerged that Greater Manchester houses one in six of the country’s intake.
Mick Taylor, project coordinator for Support Wigan Arrivals Project (Swap), said that asylum seekers are taken by councils on a voluntary basis, meaning that many are faced to shoulder the responsibilities while others sit back and accept none.
The Swap leader explained that the national issue should be addressed by every local authority, to prevent the weight from falling on “post-industrial” towns like Wigan.
“What strikes me as unfair is it’s the areas which are often the worst off and have the most demand on services already are those who are expected to do the most for asylum seekers,” he said.
“I think other local authorities needs to put their weight a bit more. This is a global issue and it needs a global response. I think a lot of people see that but they don’t act on it.
“Even at a local level people aren’t pulling their weight as much as they should. You look at some authorities and they have four houses with asylum seekers in, which isn’t a lot, others have none.
“Quite frankly, more local authorities just need to say ‘yes’ to housing local authorities so the responsibility is shared and doesn’t just fall on post-industrial towns and cities. For us, it’s really good if we are busy - it’s a good thing because this is what we do.
But if you asked a local hospital which is already snowed under if they want the increased pressure from asylum and seekers and refugees I would imagine they don’t think it’s great.”
The comments come after Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham threatened to put a ban on intakes when it emerged that the area houses 70 per cent of the asylum seekers in the North West. He wrote to Home Secretary Sajid Javid saying that if the region continues to house a “disproportionate” number of asylum seekers, it will be heading towards “catastrophic failure”.
According to figures, Wigan is in the top 10 local authorities in the country for the highest number of asylum seekers.
The majority of these will pass through Swap’s doors at one point or another.
However on what was International Migrants day yesterday, Mr Taylor argued that many Wiganers believe there are more than there actually are.
“I regularly give talks on the subject and people always think there are a lot more asylum seekers than there actually are.
“Asylum seekers make up around 0.3 per cent of the population in Wigan, there are only around 1,000.
“But it does always fall to post-industrial areas such as Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Glasgow.”
According to Wigan Council, the borough has hosted asylum seekers since 2000 following a partnership including all 10 Greater Manchester local authorities, Liverpool City Council and Blackburn with Darwen Council. This was following the implementation of of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1999.
A document released by the town hall reads: “Where asylum seekers are allocated is a decision taken by central government. Wigan Council has no control over that policy.
“Wigan, like all areas of the country, should play a fair and balanced role in resettling asylum seekers/refugees within the community and in liaison with other councils in the area.
“A humanitarian crisis is taking place and we are an open and friendly borough, as our appeal for donations to refugees earlier in the year proved. The UK is home to less than one per cent of the world’s refugees – out of more than 50 million forcibly displaced people worldwide.”