Thursday, September 03, 2015

Asylum Seeker dispersal areas are typically in economically and socially deprived areas

The Sudan quarter of the Calais Refugee Camp

I spent Wednesday evening with my wife Heather filtering through reams of research material for the BBC Radio Lancashire radio interview on Thursday 3rd September 2015. In the end of course, I didn't need all the the statistics or "fun facts" about seeking asylum in the UK.  But it was reassuring to have something in the bag to pull out if needed.

What I learned though, through doing the research, is that the UK asylum system is totally disfunctional. The only people who seem to win are MP's who ensure that Asylum Seekers are dispersed across the country, far away from their safe seats. The other winners are the private companies contracted to manage the system. These companies are rewarded huge amounts of tax-payer's money for delivering sub-standard services. What's more they include the usual suspects. You've heard of them all before as they are same companies who keep cropping up in connection with the running of private prisons, custody services, deporting "failed" asylum seekers etc.

Asylum Seeker dispersal areas are typically in economically and socially deprived areas, and these parts of the country have rates of high unemployment, and low incomes: areas in South Wales, Birmingham, the North West, the North East and Glasgow. To top it all asylum seekers are often among the most economically and socially deprived people in these most deprived of areas. The interview tomorrow is being being transmitted across the North West, an area that has a disproportionate number of asylum seekers and in many parts of the region, some of the poorest citizens in the country. While the direct costs of Asylum Seekers dispersal are funded by the UKBA and not local council tax, there can of course be an impact on social-cohesion. It's a tricky subject to tackle. It is perhaps not a surprise that dispersal areas are not in areas like Knightsbridge, Hampstead, Chelsea and (excluding Labour London and a couple of notable exceptions) the South East of England. It's curious that areas which vote Tory and have the highest house prices growth are not areas designated for Asylum seekers dispersal. Make of that what you will.

I want to thank Graham Liver for talking with me this morning on BBC Radio Lancashire about the Calais Refugees. It's a difficult subject, a lot of emotion and strong opinions on both sides of the debate. Those people with low incomes and who rely on public services, are the ones most likely to have to shoulder the burden of government spending cuts. Is it no wonder then that people at the bottom of the pile, are going to feel threatened about the possible impact that large numbers of new arrivals, immigrants and refugees might have on jobs, social housing and public services. Even so, I have met and spoken with lots of British people, many from the North West who, while they might not have much money, are either collecting donations, or giving their time as volunteers, all to help people worse of than themselves: the men, women, boys and girls who have fled from countries such as Syria, Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan.

Calais People to People Solidarity - Action from the UK

If you want to donate food, clothes, money or volunteer your time to help the men, women, boys and girls in the Calais Refugee Jungle Camp, please join the Facebook group Calais - People to People Solidarity - Action from UK

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