UK councils take Home Office to court over Afghan scheme
Coventry, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Stoke, and Walsall - areas that traditionally welcome large numbers of immigrants - said they will suspend relocations until the government addresses the uneven distribution of refugee and asylum seekers across the UK.
Rather than relying on acts of individual generosity, they are calling for “mandatory” participation in the Afghan resettlement scheme to ensure fairness and access to resources in all councils.
City of Wolverhampton Council Leader Ian Brookfield announced the joint action at a council meeting on Wednesday, saying that until the uneven distribution of refugees is fixed, the seven authorities will not be accepting any more from the dispersal scheme.
“That’s a hard thing to say but we’ve come to that point - you’ve come to the well too many times and it is dry.
That is why we are taking them to court. People need to be allocated fairly and not treated like rubbish. They are not rubbish.”
The legal papers were served to the UK High Court on 14 September.
The midlands and north of England housed a disproportionate number of asylum seekers and refugees compared to southern areas over the past year, according to data from the Home Office.
While the West Midlands has around 99 “asylum seekers and recent refugees” per 100,000 of the population, the east has accepted 18, and the south-east just 11. The northeast is home to around 173 per 100,000.
This created an imbalance in which vulnerable immigrant families end up in northern areas that are typically less affluent, while more affluent areas under Tory governance do little to help.
In the immediate aftermath of the Afghan crisis, the UK evacuated over 8,000 Afghans under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) and will invite a further 20,000 over the next five years under the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS).
Only around a third to a half of councils have agreed to provide permanent homes to Afghan families, leaving the UK Home Office to scramble to find temporary accommodation in hotels and potentially holiday parks.
Earlier this week around 200 asylum seekers were temporarily placed in the Britannia Hotel in Wolverhampton.
“We’ve had people coming in straight from the south coast with no nappies for the kids, no clothes,” said Brookfield.
CEO Refugee Council Enver Solomon told The New Arab that “councils across the country need to be actively encouraged to come forward to share allocation more evenly across areas.”
“There are 343 local authorities so housing 10,000 evacuated Afghans in half of those would be less than 60 in each council. That should certainly be manageable.”
In response to a request for comment, the Home Office said: “The UK has a proud history of welcoming and supporting those in need of our protection. The government is committed to doing everything necessary to protect the rights of asylum seekers and provide them with the safe, secure accommodation they deserve.
"We are working closely with our accommodation providers to increase the amount of dispersed accommodation available to us. We need the support of local authorities to do that and we are committed to working with them."