29 September 2000
Nick Hardwick called on ministers to thrash out a deal on funding arrangements with councils so that authorities would agree to look after asylum seekers.
He told a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in Brighton, also addressed by immigration minister Barbara Roche, that, while he accepted the need for a dispersal system to relieve the pressure on authorities in the Southeast, it would only work if the government showed leadership.
Hardwick cited the use of vouchers, which are given to asylum seekers instead of money to buy food, as a major 'stumbling block' to encouraging authorities to share the load. The system 'humiliated and stigmatised' refugees, he said.
Roche rejected claims that the system was unnecessarily harsh and said it was the best option available. 'It would be inappropriate if we were going to keep people on it for years, but we're not.'