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Last Updated: Monday, 15 November, 2004, 16:11 GMT
Asylum city dispersals suspended
By Dominic Casciani
Community affairs, BBC News

Kalan Kawa Karim
Kalan Kawa Karim: Allegedly attacked in Swansea
Dispersal of asylum seekers to six areas of England has been suspended amid fears of rising tensions.

The Home Office said the police forces involved had asked for no more asylum dispersals to parts of their areas over the past three years.

One council told the BBC it wanted the suspension because of the impact of asylum arrivals on community relations. There are about 45,000 asylum seekers in dispersal housing around the UK, paid for by central government.

Under the policy, asylum seekers are moved out of south-east England to take pressure off a small number of local authorities.

In an answer to the House of Lords, Home Office minister Baroness Scotland said the policy was fully or partially suspended in seven areas as of 21 October: Doncaster, Nottingham, Derby, Burnley, Nelson, Bootle and Manchester. Doncaster has since lifted its suspension.

The Home Office continues to work closely with dispersal areas to promote community cohesions. If any concerns are raised at any point we do review the situation
Home Office spokesman
Although not on the list, Swansea Police requested a suspension after Iraqi Kurd Kalan Kawa Karim died in an alleged attack in September. A man has since been charged with murder.

Suspensions to parts of north-west England have been in place for up to three years.

A spokesman for Manchester City Council said the authority had first asked the Home Office to suspend dispersals two years ago after the authority and others became concerned about local "pressures" caused by the dispersal programme.

"The suspension was because of the impact that the influx of asylum seekers [placed by the Home Office] was having on local communities," said the spokesman.

"It was not peculiar to Manchester alone, there were a number of other authorities which expressed concerns."

Doncaster clash

Doncaster's partial suspension came after some 60 local people and asylum seekers allegedly clashed in Hexthorpe in September.

ASYLUM DISPERSALS: JUNE 2004
North-east: 4,620
North-west: 7,325
Yorks/Humber: 7,325
East Mids: 2,850
West Mids: 7,820
East: 670
London: 2,035
South-east: 940
South-west: 1,255
Wales: 2,375
Scotland: 5,580
N Ireland: 110
Source: Home Office
One man was allegedly stabbed and another assaulted in the "serious disorder", said a spokesman for South Yorkshire Police. Seven people have since been arrested - and the force has lifted the dispersal suspension after renewed efforts to reduce tensions.

The suspensions were revealed as the Home Office continues to seek councils to take refugees formally brought to the UK under a pioneering UN scheme. Just two councils have so far signed up to the project, Sheffield and Bolton.

However, the asylum dispersal system itself may be wound up if the government controversial accommodation centres are a success.

A spokesman for the Home Office stressed dispersal suspensions were part of ensuring good community relations.

"The Home Office continues to work closely [with dispersal areas] to promote community cohesion. If any concerns are raised at any point we do review the situation.

"With the number of those claiming asylum dropping, the numbers being dispersed are also falling."

But Dr Christopher McDowell, director of the Information Centre about Refugees and Asylum Seekers, an academic body which has studied problems with integration, said local tensions could be defused where communities were properly informed.

"Dispersal is a sensible policy and can be managed as long as local populations are prepared for an influx of newcomers," he said.

"There are examples up and down the country where there has been information provided to local populations to address concerns about young men arriving from overseas.

"It's extremely difficult for councils and other bodies to overcome negative stereotypes. But it needs to be about ensuring that information and all the necessary resources are available so that people are not seen as a drain."




SEE ALSO:
Asylum seekers diverted from city
20 Oct 04 |  South West Wales


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