Britain spends £750m on asylum seekers’ homes
COUNCILS have spent more than £750million on providing homes for asylum seekers over the past four years, Whitehall figures revealed last night. The huge sum lavished on council houses and other social homes for the families of people claiming asylum in Britain was disclosed in statistics released by the Home Office.
And the expenditure on accommodating claimants has been handed out while around 1.8 million people – most of them British-born – are languishing on waiting lists for council homes.
More than £90million has been spent on providing housing for asylum seekers in Glasgow in the last four years. Whitehall figures show that public spending in Scotland’s biggest city – where about 5,000 asylum seekers live at any one time – is about 12 per cent of the total for the UK.
Last night, angry critics said the figures were a massive blow to Gordon Brown’s pledge to put local families at the front of the queue for services. Tory frontbencher Grant Shapps, Shadow Minister for Housing, said: “We wouldn’t be running the risk of straining community relations had this Government not spent 13 years failing to build the homes we need.” And Matthew Elliott, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “The asylum system is clearly flawed and lets down both taxpayers and asylum seekers alike.
“For a start, the time taken to process applications is far too long, meaning that by the time many cases are rejected the claimants have already run up a large accommodation bill.
“Even when a case is approved, the default policy seems to be to place people on benefits for the long term, whereas we should be helping and encouraging everyone to learn English and get into work.” The latest figures – released in response to a Parliamentary Written Question from Mr Shapps – showed a total of £752million has been paid by local authorities to social housing organisations since 2006.
Millions more were paid to housing associations and property firms, including Angel Group (Scotland), which used £26.2million, and YMCA Glasgow, which spent £13.8million. Glasgow City Council was the sole provider of homes for asylum seekers until 2006 when the Glasgow Housing Association, under contract to the council, became responsible for 81 per cent of accommodation. The YMCA provides 9 per cent, and Angel provides 10 per cent.
A spokesman for Glasgow City Council, however, said:
“A combination of humanitarian concerns and available housing stock were behind the decision to join the asylum seeker dispersal programme in 2000. The council’s asylum services have been generally well received since then and this is reflected in the fact that some 80 per cent of successful asylum seekers choose to stay in Glasgow once they achieve refugee status.”
Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said: “It is an absolute priority that accommodation for asylum seekers provides taxpayers value for money. “The Government is determined to reduce asylum costs, which is why support levels have halved in the past six years. The UK Border Agency is speeding up decision making and most cases are concluded in six months.”
Meanwhile, campaigners called for changes in the immigration system after a family of three fell to their deaths. A demonstration took place outside the UK Border Agency offices in Glasgow following the deaths of Russian born Serge Serykh, his wife, Tatania, and his stepson in Springburn.
‘Even when a case is approved the default policy seems to be to put people on long-term benefits’