Glasgow signs up for more asylum seekers
Daily Mail (London)
SCOTLAND’S biggest city is bracing itself for a fresh influx of asylum seekers under a new deal agreed with the Home Office yesterday. Council chiefs in Glasgow signed a contract that will see thousands more refugees arrive over the next few years. Apart from accommodation, the city will be responsible for providing asylum seekers with transport, food and a course to familiarise themselves with their new surroundings. The contract is for up to 4,200 asylum seekers for whom the council will be responsible but with almost 5,000 currently in the city other organisations are being called in to provide extra accommodation. Both the YMCA and Londonbased housing company Angel Group will be responsible for handling several hundred each. Glasgow is the only Scottish council to accept asylum seekers, but the new contract was only signed after the Scottish Executive agreed to pay Pounds 1.4million to help cover the costs of education and social work. The payment followed complaints from the council that the cash it had been given by the Home Office was not enough to pay asylum seeker-related bills. The new contract replaces the current deal, which has been in place since 2000 but which is due to run out next month. Glasgow City Council equality spokesman Irene Graham welcomed the decision to extend the contract with the Home Office’s National Asylum Seeker Service (NASS). She said: ‘Glasgow has a proud history of giving refuge to those who flee persecution. It is important that asylum seekers who come to the UK receive a humane and warm welcome and that is what we will continue to provide here in Glasgow. ‘Asylum seekers are housed in many communities across Glasgow and they make a positive contribution to the life of the city. The systems we now have in place to support their integration are among the best to be found anywhere. It would have been wrong for the council to walk away from this issue. ‘We will continue to work with NASS and many other agencies in the public and voluntary sectors to ensure that asylum seekers who come to Glasgow have all the support they need while their applications are considered by the Home Office.’ Most of the accommodation for asylum seekers in the city will come from the Glasgow Housing Association, which will provide 1,400 homes. But the deal has also raised the prospect of asylum seekers being given free accommodation in upmarket private housing. Concerns were raised earlier this year that the soaring number of asylum seekers meant the council would run out of houses for them. That led them to plans being drawn up to bring in private housing firms which would receive taxpayers’ cash to house them. At present, asylum seekers are mostly housed in rundown tower blocks, mainly in Sighthill, North Glasgow. But council chiefs are understood to be keen for the new influx to live in a better environment in a bid to help them integrate. Figures released earlier this year showed Scotland was in the grip of a racist backlash against the surging numbers of asylum seekers and immigrants. They revealed an explosion in race-related crimes, with almost 5,000 incidents in the past year. Since 2000, when police forces first began collating statistics on race crime, the number of attacks in Scotland has doubled. Critics claimed that Labour’s mishandling of the asylum system was responsible for fuelling the race-hate epidemic. Glasgow has become the UK’s asylum ‘capital’, with more per head of population than anywhere else in Britain. That has led ministers to consider dispersing asylum seekers to other parts of Scotland in an effort to avoid ‘ghettos’ forming.