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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
Asylum seeker flats lie empty
Sighthill flats
The council is being paid for more than 800 flats which remain unoccupied
More than 800 Glasgow council flats earmarked for asylum seekers are lying empty, it has emerged.

The homes are among more than 2,000 in the Sighthill area let by Glasgow City Council to the National Asylum Support Service (NASS).

The organisation brings asylum seekers to Scotland, but many prefer to remain in London.

NASS pays the council 230 per week for family accommodation and 170 a week for single units.

Many want to stay in London because there are larger ethnic groups there which they want to be part of.

Glasgow Council spokesman
The council still receives money from NASS if the flats are empty, although at a slightly lower rate, because the total sum is meant to cover heating, lighting and council tax.

Of the 2,171 homes let so far, a total of 1,357 have been occupied leaving more than 800 empty.

Under the council's five-year contract with NASS, officials make sure the houses, which are already empty, are in a fit state to receive refugees spending money on decoration, furnishing and safety checks.

The council is one-year into the contract and expects all the flats will be filled by this August.

Interpreting services

A council spokesman said he did not believe asylum seekers were reluctant to come to Glasgow because of a recent spate of racially-motivated attacks on refugees.

He said: "Many want to stay in London because there are larger ethnic groups there which they want to be part of."

The spokesman also defended the fact the council receives money for flats which are empty.

He said the flats needed to be ready and waiting for the asylum seekers and that the council had had to budget for services for the refugees such as extra teachers, interpreting services and a 40-strong asylum support team.

He said: "We are not making a profit, this money is being spent on dealing with asylum seekers coming into the city."

And he pointed out the economic benefits which the asylum seekers have already brought to Glasgow, adding: "People shouldn't overlook the fact that this scheme is benefiting a wide circle of the population.

"For example it is providing work for disabled people from Blindcraft who make the furniture for the flats, money and vouchers spent by asylum seekers benefits local shopkeepers and we have taken on extra employees such as teachers."

See also:

22 May 01 | Scotland
Anger at council asylum moves
17 May 01 | Scotland
Racist attack on asylum seekers
16 May 01 | Scotland
Asylum seeker attacks targeted
25 Apr 00 | Scotland
City's asylum policy attacked
12 Apr 00 | Scotland
Refugees shun Glasgow
12 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Fresh row over asylum seekers
10 Apr 00 | Europe
Europe toughens asylum policies
18 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Asylum camp plan attacked
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