“This week we’ve received notice from the Home Office that a local hotel will be used to provide temporary emergency accommodation for asylum seekers.

“We know that Oldham is a friendly and welcoming place and will recognise the needs of those being placed here. Those being placed are likely to have come from places like Afghanistan where British forces evacuated more than 15,000 people, including 2,000 children whose lives were at risk from the new regime, often due to the support they gave to our armed forces over the last two decades. We know that  two thirds of those applying for asylum here in the UK are successful in their applications and half of those who appeal are subsequently successful.  These are people fleeing from terror or persecution and we will not turn our back on them as a society or as a borough.

“That said, we do need to address how and where these vulnerable people are placed by this Government. The current scheme sees many more vulnerable asylum seekers placed in towns where rent and accommodation is cheap and where the Government’s contractor, Serco, can negotiate directly with private landlords with no discussions with local councils.  But inevitably those places with available cheap rented accommodation are already facing significant challenges caused by deprivation and poverty. The reality is that the current approach to placing asylum seekers means that some areas welcome no placements while others welcome significant numbers placed in already struggling communities.

“It’s understandable that local residents are concerned about access to services like doctors and schools and we need to work with local communities to allay their concerns. But we also need to strongly challenge the government to provide greater funding for local services. After more than ten years of Tory austerity local services in places like Oldham are already under immense pressure.  The Conservative Government’s unfair, unjust placement policy for asylum seekers is driving division in our communities and is not supporting asylum seekers appropriately at the most vulnerable time of their lives.

“We will be making sure that those people who will be placed here will be welcomed and that we offer any support we can as a Borough. But we’ll also be listening to residents about their concerns to make sure that everyone feels supported and heard.

“I have also written to Tory Home Office Minister Priti Patel to call on her to scrap her current unfair placement scheme.”

Cllr Arooj Shah

Leader of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council

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