Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Graham Satchell
"Refugees may be forced to go to other parts of the country"
 real 28k

Monday, 6 December, 1999, 16:44 GMT
Dispersal for asylum-seekers
A child immigrant About 65,000 immigrants will seek asylum this year

New arrangements to spread asylum-seekers in clusters around the country come into effect on Monday.

Clearing-houses have been set up in Kent and London to process new arrivals into England.

The aim is to relieve pressure on councils in key areas, such as Dover and London, which have been overburdened with asylum seekers and to spread the load more evenly around the country.

Those requiring accommodation will be dispersed to areas with housing to spare, initially likely to be in the north-west and north-east of England.

A woman talks to an immigration officer The government is trying to speed up the decision process
The interim arrangements will stay in place until April and foreshadow the new system for handling asylum-seekers laid out in the newly-passed Asylum and Immigration Act.

About 6,500 asylum-seekers a month are expected to fall within the terms of the new system including 1,300 families and 1,300 single adults.

Others are likely to live with family or friends or may have funds to support themselves.

England and Wales have been divided into nine regions, each told to expect to receive 300 applicants a month.

However, the figure could be higher or lower depending on numbers seeking asylum.

Sharing the burden
The North West
The North East
West Midlands
East Midlands
South West
South Central
East Anglia
Applicants who need access to specialist medical care only available in London, such as torture victims, will be allowed to stay near the capital as will people who already have very close relatives there.

'No random scattering'

Guidelines have urged local authorities to try to house asylum-seekers near people from a similar culture and language and with a community structure which can support them.

However, concern has been expressed in some quarters over the workability of the new arrangements.

Richard Kemp, of Liverpool City Council, described the situation as "a shambles".

He said: "We don't know how much money we will be getting to cover education and health services used by these people and we are already overstretched.

"We don't know what type of people we will get, such as the mix between families and single people.

"We don't know their counties of origin so we don't know what translators we need or if we have people who understand their particular problems."

An immigration officer More than 90,000 asylum-seekers are waiting to get their cases heard
Under the new regulations, single people can only be given support as part of a package of accommodation and assistance with essential living needs, allowing only 10 per person in cash each week.

However, there is no limit on the proportion of support that can be given as cash to asylum-seekers with children.

Nick Hardwick, chief executive of the Refugee Council, urged local authorities to work carefully to ensure asylum-seekers were treated well by the new system.

He said: "Asylum-seekers should not be scattered in a random fashion but settled in clusters where they can find mutual support and have access to the basic services they need."

Figures for October showed a drop in the number of asylum-seekers coming into the UK from a record high of 7,300 in October to 6,300.

Last year 44,000 asylum seekers logged applications, a figure which is likely to hit 65,000 this year.

The Asylum and Immigration Act introduces a total shake-up in the provision of support for asylum seekers and the way cases are handled.

The aim is to deter economic migrants by removing entitlement to benefits and streamlining decision making.

The backlog of outstanding cases currently stands at nearly 90,000.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

See also:
08 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Refugees 'help put the Great in Britain'
02 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Irvine refuses to put timing to asylum pledge
24 Oct 99 |  UK
Child asylum seekers 'denied education'
20 Oct 99 |  UK Politics
Lords defeat for asylum vouchers
18 Oct 99 |  UK Politics
Asylum seekers to get orders early
23 Aug 99 |  UK Politics
Straw denies asylum system is overwhelmed
08 Oct 99 |  UK Politics
Asylum seekers to be fingerprinted
02 Sep 99 |  UK
Port targets illegal immigrants
17 Aug 99 |  UK
Immigrant influx 'must stop'

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Links to other UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories