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GOVERNMENT DOES NOT KNOW HOW MANY ASYLUM-SEEKERS ARE IN SEASIDE TOWNS

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Hansard 14 Feb: Column 589 ...
Hansard 14 Feb: Column 589

Information is not collected centrally on the number of asylum seekers housed in seaside towns, home office minister Barbara Roche told MPs. When the home office rakes over responsibility for supporting asylum seekers, such information would be available.

She was replying to Teddy Taylor, Conservative MP for Rochford and Southen East, who said there was a serious problem in seaside towns, partly because of the availability of accomodation and partly because other local authorities were dumping refugees in those areas. This created problems for education, housing and maintaining good community

relations.

Mrs Roche said she was prepared to visit Southend and places facing similar problems.

She said the problem arose from the Conservative government which placed the whole responsibility for in-country applicants on hard-pressed local authorities. She said she hoped the new support arrangements would relieve pressure on local authorities.

Neil Gerrard, Labour MP for Walthamstow, asked whether the interim scheme operated by local government was working to relieve pressure on seaside towns and parts of London and the south-east that have large numbers of asylum seekers, and whether some councils were causing difficulties by refusing to accept asylum seekers.

Mrs Roche sought to reassure him: 'We have had very good contact with local authorities throughout the country, and we are grateful for the support that we have received from local government associations, with whom we are having detailed discussions. We are also engaged in detailed negotiations with accomodation providers, including local authorities and the voluntary and private sectors. Arrangements and discussions continue, and we are very grateful to everybody who has participated so far'.

The minister added that decision-making on asylum applications was increasing 'the whole time' and the waiting period was being reduced.

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