Town halls given £10m for refugees

9 Mar 00
The government this week promised £10m in emergency aid to local authorities coping with large numbers of asylum seekers, but Home Office ministers backtracked on a promise to take responsibility for the national dispersal of asylum seekers from April 1.

10 March 2000

Only those who claim asylum when arriving at a port will now be subject to national dispersal, with councils still responsible for others until at least September.

The Home Office said the delay was caused by a lack of translation and other support facilities across the country.

Brian Briscoe, chief executive of the Local Government Association, said: 'We want these new arrangements to work: dispersal is more cost-effective and relieves the pressure on London, Kent and surrounding authorities. This phased approach can only add to the financial and operational pressures on local authorities.'

The LGA says that voluntary dispersal has housed 1,500 of almost 80,000 asylum seekers. It urged the government to fully fund asylum seekers, warning that voluntary dispersal will fail if councils are penalised financially for their involvement.

Conservative councils such as Kent and the London Borough of Hillingdon, which have taken large numbers of asylum seekers, were particularly critical of the delay. Hillingdon claims that voluntary arrangements are breaking down, with many asylum seekers returning to London because of the absence of local support facilities.

Hillingdon leader Richard Barnes argued that dispersal could only work if asylum seekers lost their right to free movement – a move he would oppose but which he predicted the government would be forced to adopt.


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