09:00AM, Thursday 10 March 2016
It is not a ‘moral duty or responsibility’ for the Royal Borough to provide homes for asylum seekers, the leader of the Royal Borough has said.
Cllr David Burbage (Con, Bray) was speaking following the publication of a parliamentary report by the Home Affairs Committee in which it was revealed Maidenhead was not housing any asylum seekers.
The town was highlighted, alongside Warwick and Lincoln, as a symptom of a ‘lack of fair and equal dispersal throughout the country’.
In contrast, more urban, and often deprived areas have taken the brunt, such as Glasgow, Stoke, Cardiff and Middlesbrough – which is currently thought to be managing a ratio of one asylum seeker per 137 people.
Official guidelines say this should not exceed one in 200.
The housing of asylum seekers is subcontracted by the Home Office to several private firms.
Responding to the committee’s finding’s, Cllr Burbage said: “I think the case is that the dispersal programme is being run by a number of companies and has got to find accommodation and the amount of money they have is clearly not an unlimited budget.
“So, understandably, they find accommodation where it’s less expensive.”
He responded to suggestions the naming of Maidenhead, the constituency of Home Secretary Theresa May, in the report had been politically motivated, adding: “I think it [the report] will assist Mr Vaz [Rt Hon Keith Vaz (Lab, Leicester East), the committee’s chairman] in getting some media coverage by mentioning the town – but we’re not special.
“There are a lot of towns, up and down the land, who haven’t got any asylum seekers.”
When asked, he refuted any suggestion that, as Mrs May’s constituency, Maidenhead should be treated as a special case and do more to share the load nationally.
And he also denied that, as a relatively affluent part of the country, there was any claim that Maidenhead had a moral duty or responsibility to do more.
He added: “It’s not a moral duty or responsibility [for the Royal Borough to take on asylum seekers].
“Just like we’re not responsible for the plumbing in people’s houses, we’re not responsible for the asylum seeker relocation programme.”
In his comments accompanying the committee's report, Mr Vaz had said 'reconsideration should be given to the generous offers from individuals such as the Archbishop of Canterbury and others to house Syrian refugees'.
In a statement, he later added:"The Home Affairs Select Committee has received data from all three asylum housing providers, which have shown whole swathes of the country are housing no asylum seekers.
"These figures have publicly identifies areas like Lincoln, Warwick, Waveney, as well as Maidenhead, to be in this category.
"The disproportionate placement of asylum seekers in urban areas appears unfair, Ministers in particular may wish to ensure their local authorities are making a sufficient contribution."
the time of writing, Mrs May had yet to respond to a request for comment, but her office had supplied an official Home Office statement, which read: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection and we are committed to providing safe and secure accommodation while applications are considered.
“With the support of local government, we are proactively engaging with areas that to date have not participated in asylum dispersal with a view to negotiating voluntary agreements to do so.”
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