March 12, 2010 Friday
MORE than £750million of taxpayers’ money has been spent 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 foreign nationals claiming asylum here was disclosed in statistics released by the Home Office.
And the expenditure on accommodating claimants has been handed out while around 1.8million people – largely Britishborn – are languishing on waiting lists for council houses.
The latest figures, released in response to a Parliamentary Written Question from Tory frontbencher Grant Shapps, showed a total of £752million has been paid by the Home Office to social housing organisations since 2006. The figures show that £51.1million was paid to Glasgow City Council to provide homes for asylum seekers over the period.
Liverpool City Council was paid £14.3million, Nottingham City Council was paid £19million and Cardiff City Council was paid £14.5million.
Millions more were paid by the Home Office to housing associations and private property firms including Clearsprings, Angel Group and United Property Management.
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 public services. Mr Shapps, Shadow Minister for Housing, said: “Gordon Brown’s pledge of British homes for British families has been exposed as an utter sham.
“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.”
Matthew Elliott, of campaign group 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 bill for accommodation.
“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 work.”
Separate Home Office figures showed that there were more than 24,000 asylum seeker families living in council accommodation at the end of last year.
Expenditure on social housing for asylum seekers has nearly doubled from around £132million in 200708 to £230million last year. 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.”
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’
Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, UK)
January 18, 2010 Monday
BYLINE: Katie Davies
SECTION: A; Pg. 13
LENGTH: 410 words
A COUPLE and their children have been evicted and left destitute after their appeal for asylum was refused.
Kamo and Nonna Manukyan have lived in Wallsend, North Tyneside, for two years with their children, Lusi, 18, and Arsen, 19.
The Home Office want the Christian family-of-four to return to Uzbekistan or to Armenia, where mum Nonna and her two children have citizenship.
The family, formerly of Helmsley Drive, were forced to leave their property in freezing temperatures this week after they received a letter from their accommodation provider, Angel Group.
Angel Group wrote to the family stating that they were no longer entitled to accommodation, as their application had been refused.
The Manukyans have since managed to find a place to stay but are relying on charity and handouts from friends and neighbours.
Wallsend’s People’s Centre Walking With project are helping the family as much as they can, as their only support free food vouchers has been cut off.
Ian Ferguson, from the centre, said: “It’s grossly immoral what is happening to this family.
“It’s as if the authorities are trying to starve these people out of the country.
“They have no means of obtaining any food.”
The Manukyans are forced to live with their most treasured possessions in bags in fear they could be put out at any time if charity donations run out.
Mum Nonna has serious health problems and without shelter and support her situation could deteriorate.
Lusi, who scored top grades at A-level and won places to study medicine at Newcastle and St Andrew’s universities said: “I thought things may have changed in the New Year but then this happens.
“The most annoying thing was that the letter arrived the day after our deadline to move out.”
The family risk being torn apart if they are deported.
While Nonna, Arsen and Lusi have Armenian citizenship, dad Kamo does not.
He could be extradited to Uzbekistan, splitting the family in two. Arsen, who is a star pupil on his art and design course at Newcastle College, claims he will be jailed if sent to Armenia.
Military service is compulsory in the country and, since his 18th birthday, Arsen has missed two call-ups.
The Home Office have rejected their appeal for an extension stating they should have been prepared to leave.
A UK Border Agency spokesman said: “Our decision to refuse this family asylum has been upheld throughout the full appeal process.
“Once a decision has been made we expect people to leave voluntarily.”
BYLINE: Sam Wood
The Journal (Newcastle, UK)
AFIRE at a home for asylum seekers in Newcastle could have been started deliberately because of a feud between rival gangs, a resident said last night.
People staying at the house, on Lynnwood Avenue, Elswick, had to flee in the middle of the night after a fire broke out in one of the downstairs bedrooms. Three were trapped by smoke and had to be rescued by firefighters, while 11 others managed to escape before fire crews arrived.
Last night, police said they were investigating the cause of the blaze but refused to comment on rumours of gang activity. One resident, who didn’t want to be named for fear of repercussions, told The Journal of his terror at leaving his room to see the house filled with smoke. He said:
“I was just watching the news when I heard some loud shouting and arguing. There was a fight and I could hear people barging around downstairs. I looked out of my window and saw a group of about eight people running off down the street with bags. I carried on watching TV and 15 minutes later I started to smell smoke. Then I saw a police car stop at the house and the police rushed in. I heard someone shouting, Fire! Fire! I ran out of my room but there was smoke everywhere and I couldn’t see anything. I ran back into my room and closed the door. I was panting to try to get my breath. I was going to jump out of the window as the fire engines arrived. “Someone shouted for me not to jump, so I ran outside as quickly as I could.” The resident, who has lived in the house for over a year, added that conditions for occupants were terrible. He said: “There is no security in this house at all. The front door is always open and I never know who is supposed to be living here. People just walk in and out and we have had gangs, people coming in to take drugs and prostitutes here.” And a neighbour of the house, Helen Hodder, said: “This was a timebomb waiting to go off. There is often trouble at the house, the front door is never closed.” Watch manager Karl Hindhaugh, based at Colby Court fire station, said: “The fire started in a ground floor bedroom. Firefighters from Colby Court and West Denton attended the scene and were there for about an hour and a half. “The door to the bedroom was left open, which allowed the smoke to go up the stairs. It meant a man and a woman in the bedroom above could not get down the stairs and had to climb onto the bay window roof. They were then rescued by firefighters using a ladder. “One other person was led to safety from the third floor by officers using breathing apparatus.” A spokesman for Angel Group, which owns the house said: “The fire was confined to one room only, that room has since been repaired. We have had some difficulties with anti-social behaviour at this property. “The property is visited at least twice every day by property managers. We cannot comment further at this time as there are ongoing investigations as to the cause of the fire.” A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: ” Officers are currently investigating the cause of the blaze. We can’t comment on any suggestions of gang-related violence.” This was a timebomb waiting to go off. There is often trouble at the house
The Journal (Newcastle, UK)
BYLINE: Sam Wood
REFUGEES and asylum seekers from some of the world’s most notorious troublespots are being exploited once they reach the North East, campaigners say. Tyneside Community Action for Refugees protested outside the Westgate Road, Newcastle, offices of housing provider Angel Group yesterday morning. TCAR alleges Angel, which has a Home Office contract to house asylum seekers, has placed them in substandard accommodation. Angel strongly denies that. Tom Vickers, 26, a TCAR member at the demonstration, said: “The protest was about putting forward a basic list of demands to call on Angel Group to treat asylum seekers like human beings. Angel group makes millions from its Home Office contracts, but they’re housing asylum seekers in accommodation that isn’t fit for an animal. Areas of Scotswood that have been boarded up and scheduled for demolition have been opened up by Angel Group to house asylum seekers. Most of it has been boarded up for years and is infested with rats and cockroaches. Other Angel Group tenants have reported being kept for months without gas and electricity, and Angel Group employees routinely let themselves into people’s homes without any notice. “The fact that Angel Group has been allowed to get away with these practices around Britain for the past nine years shows the utter contempt in which the Labour government holds asylum seekers.” Angel Group commercial consultant Mervyn Clarke told The Journal: “The properties are maintained to a very high standard. It is a requirement of the Government. We inspect our properties on a regular basis, as do the Home Office. If there are any specific problems which residents have, then we will deal with them. “We have been housing people for 12 years and we are well aware of the sensitivities which are involved.” A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We are aware of a small demonstration that took place at the offices of one of our accommodation providers. While we respect the right to peaceful protest, it will not stop us from enforcing the immigration laws passed by Parliament.”
BYLINE: Graeme King
The Sunday Times (London) April 27, 2008
LENGTH: 160 words
ONE of the most prominent buildings in the West End of Newcastle is on the market with offers sought at £4m. Angel Heights, formerly the Wingrove Nurses Home, has been marketed by the Angel Group, which has been using the building as a hostel for asylum seekers. The 57,100sqft, four floor building is being marketed by Lambert Smith Hampton with a range of uses mooted from student housing, through offices, and even a hotel. The striking building stands next to Westgate Road, close to Newcastle General Hospital, which is due for extensive redevelopment. Jonathan Cooper, of LSH, said: “From initial discussions with the council, they are fairly open minded on uses residential, key worker or student accommodation, hotel, or offices depending on the pur- chaser. “They want to see the building redeveloped. “Our client is seeking offers in excess of £4m. We have had quite a lot of inquiries and had two offers already but they have been rejected by the vendor.”
The Sunday Times (London)
April 27, 2008
61 £ 131m Julia Davey Property Enterprising Davey, 51, has built Angel Group, which initially provided
accommodation for asylum seekers, into a company with developments in Britain and abroad, including Poland and America. It has hotels in Scotland and northern England, and is diversifying into student accommodation and wedding venues. The group, based in London, made a £ 679,000 profit on £ 20.7m sales in 2006-07 and is worth more than £100m. Other wealth takes Davey to £ 131m.