Homeowners taxed 10 more for child asylum seekers
A council is adding 10 to its average tax bill to cover the costs of failed asylum seekers.
Hillingdon said it costs 1million a year to look after people who have arrived at Heathrow as unaccompanied children but have exhausted the asylum appeals process.
When child asylum seekers reach 18, either they are given leave to remain in the country or are told to return home. But the council remains legally responsible for them until they are 21, or 24 if they are in full-time education.
The Tory-run authority blames the Government for failing to deport them while refusing to provide any money for their care while they remain “in limbo”.
It says this has forced the borough to increase its share of council tax bills by an extra one per cent – an extra 10.42 for an average household. Its benchmark Band D bill will increase by 54 next month to 1,384.
Hillingdon has identified 155 over-18s the Home Office wants to deport but for whom the Department for Education refuses to provide 100 a week because they are considered “illegal”.
Council leader Ray Puddifoot said: “We have no problem with these people as individuals. It's not their fault – they came to this country for whatever reason for a better life. Our problem is with the Government for not recognising its duty.
“If the Government's not going to deport them, then for God's sake, let them work. You can't leave them in limbo. You can't leave them to be a cost on the council tax payers of Hillingdon.”
The council, which has a legal duty to care for asylum seekers under 18, has been left with a 5million annual hole in its budget after the Government changed its funding rules in 2005. It says that without the increase in council tax, it would be forced to raid its education and social services budgets to pay for the immigrants.
Mr Puddifoot called the situation a “joke” and said he was aware of one person being told it was “safe” to return to Zimbabwe, despite the violent attacks by the country's president Robert Mugabe on his opponents.
He said it was necessary to explain honestly to residents how their taxes were being spent in order to maintain the borough's good record of “social cohesion” and guard against extremists.
He said: “Asylum is a national policy. We will do whatever we are obliged to do but we don't feel the cost should fall on Hillingdon just because of Heathrow. The whole thing has been an absolute joke.”
But Habib Rahman, chief of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, questioned the council's calculations and called for it to work with the Government rather than apportion blame.
She said: “Presumably, Hillingdon councillors are not the sort of people who would be happy to see vulnerable youngsters who are seeking protection here forcibly deported and made vulnerable to traffickers.”
The Home Office said the bulk of funding for asylum seekers came from the Government rather than council tax. A spokeswoman said: “Removals of failed asylum seekers are at a record high.”
Across London, average bills will increase by just under 40 to 1,258, including an extra 15 to Mayor Ken Livingstone. The average rise is 3.6 per cent – just under the retail price index, 3.9 per cent.