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Monday February 7 2000
Reporter Geeta Guru-Murthy
Producer Fiona Campbell

Panorama highlights the difficulties faced by local councils, communities and asylum seekers themselves as "dispersal" - the Government's new approach to handling asylum seekers is introduced.

An interim scheme is currently in place, paving the way for a full national scheme to be introduced on April 1st. It is designed to ease pressure on London and Kent where large numbers of asylum seekers arrive and have been settled.

New arrivals will no longer be allowed to remain in the South East, but will be moved out to other parts of the county.

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The Emini family are "dipersed" from London to Liverpool
Panorama follows Shakrije Emini and her six young children as they journey north and settle in Liverpool. They board a bus to travel hundreds of miles. The childrens' father has been seized by the authorities. They are tired and bewildered and they don't know what awaits them. These are Kosovan refugees, but this isn't the story of their escape from Kosovo, it's the story of their arrival in Britain The Emini family are among the first of thousands to be "dispersed"

The Local Government Association is in charge of matching asylum seekers with available accommodation, and have been seeking offers from local authorities. They need 10,000 places between now and April, but so far only 1,500 have been offered.

My real fear is that some areas will have no asylum seekers and their budgets wont be affected at all, that means, the Liverpools the Birminghams, the Leeds the Manchesters will have to take more asylum seekers and its only our budgets that will be affected and what we've said to government is that that's not fair

Richard Kemp, North West Consortium for receiving refugees
Local authorities are worried about the cost implications. On top of accommodation, they have to provide subsistence, health services, education, and other services like translators. They fear they will not get enough money from central government to cover their costs, and that provision for local people will suffer as a result.

Councils are also sensitive to the concerns of local communities, and must chose appropriate locations for those dispersed to be moved to.

Big cities are not the only reception areas. Panorama visits the village of Tetney, near Grimsby, where a group of thirty asylum seekers, mainly young men from Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, were placed for an unhappy five weeks at the end of last year.
Saeed Khalid Beper was moved from Kent to Tetney
A Tetney local resident, explains;
"I'm sorry but they could have been murderers, They could have been rapists. We didn't know anything about the young men. All we knew was they was refugees. Refugees from what ? What was they running from? We don't know and nobody was wanting to let us know what they were which was quite upsetting. If the government think they should be housed let them go to Downing Street and live with the Prime Minister on his back door."

villagers in Somerset voice their opposition
By mobilising local opinion, some parts of the country have tried to use planning laws to prevent asylum seekers being dispersed to their area. In the parish of Over Stowey in Somerset, Panorama follows villagers attempts to prevent a former boarding school being converted in to a hostel to house asylum seekers.

Hostility to asylum seekers is fuelled by concerns that claimants are not true refugees, but are attracted to Britain for economic reasons. At present, the long backlogs of cases means it takes an average of just under two years for asylum claims to be assessed and processed.

If a claim is rejected, claimants are asked to leave, but it is difficult to enforce this after such a long and settled period in this county.

Panorama examines whether the government's new law will speed up the process and weed out unfounded cases, or whether government rhetoric has succeeded only in stirring up racist sentiment while failing to address the needs of refugees genuinely forced out of their home countries.

Mike Boyle from the local Government Association gives his opinion on the National scheme of "dispersal"

"Anyone who believes from the 1st April there is going to be this grand map of the United Kingdom which has broken down into areas where its appropriate for Somalis to go, where its appropriate for Afghans to go, where its appropriate for Kurds to go and that there will be this sophisticated matching exercise to ensure that everybody goes to an area where there are proper arrangements in place - where there are translators, where there are other people from their country if you think that - that's not going to happen."

Related links:
Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Local Government Association Web site on asylum and voluntary dispersal.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC Panorama 7.2.00. Human Traffic Clip
WATCH CLIP. Asylum seekers are moved around the UK

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