Ministers urge areas like Harrogate to take in asylum seekers

No asylum seekers are currently being housed in Harrogate or anywhere across North Yorkshire, the Commons Home Affairs Committee has found.

Thursday, 10th March 2016, 2:12 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th March 2016, 2:31 pm
Street scene in Harrogate

The committee’s report found that some of areas of the country, including Glasgow, Birmingham and Liverpool receive thousands, while areas, including all of North Yorkshire, have none.

Under the ‘dispersal’ scheme, councils sign up voluntarily to house asylum seekers but the report has found some local authorities were ‘unwilling’ to take part.

The Home Office has said it wants more local authorities to take part in the scheme, especially as there is an ‘impending shortage’ of housing for asylum seekers in the UK.

The report stated: “Asylum seekers should be dispersed throughout the country and therefore we recommend that more local authorities take part in the dispersal accommodation system and provide suitable accommodation for asylum seekers.

“Local authorities who have very few, and in many instances no, asylum seekers should be actively encouraged by Ministers to volunteer in the existing scheme.”

Critics of the dispersal scheme, including Committee Chairman Keith Vaz, have labelled the process ‘unfair’ and warned that Britain may need to house as many as 50,000 asylum seekers by 2017.

As part of the scheme, asylum seekers are found accommodation while their applications are considered, usually in areas where cheap housing is available.

Following a meeting with the Home Office last September, North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) and its seven district councils agreed North Yorkshire would be unsuitable to for asylum dispersal.

An NYCC, spokesperson said: “It was agreed that in general North Yorkshire has neither the accommodation nor the expertise to deal with asylum dispersal and the county should therefore concentrate its efforts and resources on resettling up to 200 Syrian refugees, including families.”

Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member for housing, Coun Mike Chambers, said they would give it ‘proper consideration’ if asked to house asylum seekers.

However, he warned it could be difficult to find rented accommodation as Harrogate property may be ‘too expensive’, adding the council already had problems finding ‘suitable housing’ for people in their own local authority.

The Harrogate district is set to welcome the first of 50 Syrian refugees this summer.