Revealed: Which Yorkshire towns are housing asylum seekers - and which are not

Cash-strapped councils in rural Yorkshire have said they do not have the resources to house asylum seekers, despite their counterparts in more urban areas accepting hundreds in recent months.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 11th June 2016, 1:06 pm
Updated Monday, 13th June 2016, 12:24 pm
Which towns are housing asylum seekers?
Which towns are housing asylum seekers?

Authorities in major cities across Yorkshire have been forced to take the bulk of asylum seekers for the region.

This comes as figures reveal smaller authorities in more rural communities - particularly across North Yorkshire - have refused to take part in the Government’s dispersal programme.

“We do not have the necessary infrastructure in place,” said Coun Bill Chatt, Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) Cabinet Member for Public Health and Housing.

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Graphic: Graeme Bandeira

“We are facing significant financial challenges in the coming years and existing services are under real pressure to meet existing levels of need locally.”

The Government dispersal scheme, run by security company G4S, is reliant on local authorities agreeing to accept asylum seekers as they wait to hear if they have been granted refugee status.

And while almost all of Yorkshire’s major cities, including Leeds, Bradford, Hull and Sheffield, have accepted hundreds of asylum seekers, the region’s more rural communities have not.

G4S says this does cause difficulties in finding much-needed accommodation.

Graphic: Graeme Bandeira

“It is a constant challenge,” said managing director John Whitwam.

“We always work with local authorities to provide suitable accommodation, as well as asking neighbouring authorities to take asylum seekers where they currently do not.”

Not a single authority in North Yorkshire is taking part in the scheme, many citing ‘resource issues’, costly housing, and the need to focus on re-homing Syrian refugees.

This separate pledge, part of the Government’s promise to rehome 20,000 people fleeing war-torn Syria, relates to individuals who have already been granted refugee status while asylum seekers are still waiting to hear their fate.

“The refugee resettlement programme is going to put a strain on our very limited affordable housing supply and support systems,” said Colin Dales, corporate director of Richmondshire District Council.

“We simply have not got the resources to participate in both programmes. We have decided to prioritise the refugee resettlement programme above asylum seeker dispersal.”

Towns and cities which are taking large numbers of asylum seekers have expressed concern over the situation.

Middlesbrough has now closed its doors to any newcomers, saying its numbers already far exceed its fair allocation.

“Clearly such an influx does add pressure to local resources and services,” a spokesman said.

Leeds City Council has urged all areas to take their share, while Barnsley’s authority has said it too was going to have to say no to housing any more individuals in 2016.

“We have expressed concern about the disproportionate numbers,” Coun Jenny Platts, Cabinet Member for Communities. “Dispersal pressures may increase unless more local authorities are recruited.”

David Brown, head of migration Yorkshire, said one issue was that asylum seekers are still traditionally placed in areas that were agreed 15 years ago, although the system has changed.

“In recent months we have been working closely with areas not currently taking asylum seekers who are considering their options and making local decisions,” he said.

“The 10 asylum dispersal areas in our region work closely together through Migration Yorkshire to lobby Government for a fair and equitable distribution of asylum seekers at local, regional and national levels.

“We are moving towards every area coming together doing their bit on asylum and refugees.”