Pressure likely to be built on local services
13th October 2010: The going back of the Birmingham and Wolverhampton Council on its agreement to accept asylum seekers has not gone down well with some of the experts.
An expert from Birmingham University, Jenny Phillimore, has termed the development a disaster. Pointing out the problems, she also brought to fore potential stress the local services would face in the areas less equipped to deal with an influx of asylum seekers.
Birmingham Council, the largest local authority, would withdraw from its contract with the UK Border Agency (UKBA) next June, ending a five-year agreement. Wolverhampton too had confirmed they would also terminate the UKBA contract at the same time. Birmingham supplies 190 homes and Wolverhampton City Council 124.
Both the authorities claimed finding a home for the rising number of homeless people should take priority over housing asylum seekers.
Quoting her research, Jenny Phillimore from the Institute of Applied Social Studies at Birmingham University said she found between 2007 and 2009 Handsworth had people from 170 different countries.
She asserted it was a clear indication of what would happen next. Elaborating, she said the asylum seekers were kept in areas where they fit in and the right support was available. This was less likely with private landlords as they could be put anywhere.
She further insisted the asylum seekers could still stay in the West Midlands or they could be moved anywhere. Phillimore added councils have experts and bring all the voluntary agencies besides the support needed together. They have also built up massive body of expertise built up over the past 10 years. She questioned: Who would lead on this now?
Councilor John Lines, from Birmingham City Council, said with the long waiting list for homes, the city needed all its properties for their own people.
The UK Border Agency’s regional director too said they were disappointed at the decision.
Referring to UKBA, Phillimore said the agency knew where asylum seekers live and they were forced to stay in the accommodation given to them.
A claim for asylum takes about six weeks to be processed and many cases were denied. An appeal was also lodged in some cases which also took time.
She added that some of them had been here for as long as eight to 10 years and would not be easy for them to uproot everything.
The expert said the dangers of using the private sector more was that asylum seekers could now go anywhere and not have the support they need.
She added that they even went to places like Handsworth which was diverse and worked well but perhaps. If the seekers were placed elsewhere, support may not be available.
The decision has left question marks over what will happen next, with it being likely that private landlords will bear the brunt of finding them homes.