Homes Go To Asylum Families

Homes go to asylum families

Peter Young
Evening Chronicle
Jan 4 2008

UP to 139 asylum seeker families will be allocated tenancies of the council houses they are already occupying in Newcastle if they are allowed to stay in the UK.

The guarantee by the city council applies to families whose asylum claims are part of a national backlog dating back several years.

Council leaders have now decided that those who are given permission to stay will be allowed to stay in the homes where they have settled.

Officials have moved quickly to avoid any complaints that the families are queue-jumping, pointing out that they have been living in properties managed by Your Homes Newcastle for at least three years. Most were empty before.

They are integrated within their local communities and their children attend local schools and leaving them in the houses they currently occupy will cause the minimum of disruption, says the council.

More homes may need to be set aside for asylum seekers in the future as part of the contract with the Government, though officials say the numbers coming to Newcastle are reducing.

Meanwhile, the Government has been criticised after failing to give any guarantee so far that it will provide all the money needed for staff to give the families the support they need.

The Border and Immigration Agency agreed in principle to fund support for families for six months and negotiations are going on over future support.

The cost for six months is 140,000 for families in council properties and 82,000 for those in private accommodation. The councils Liberal Democrat leader, Coun John Shipley, said: We thought the Government was going to give us the money but at the moment it is not clear. The Government approach is not satisfactory.

Regeneration director Marie Fallon saID: It is important to note that the families in question are people who have already been living in asylum accommodation in the city for at least three years.

The response seeks to enable families to remain in the accommodation.

Recent figures revealed that around 14,000 people are on the council house waiting list in Newcastle, including 3,000 who are seeking an exchange, and officials have warned that it would take eight years to house them all.