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ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES
4 June 1999
REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS
Report by Directors of Social Services, Hampshire County Council and Portsmouth City Council
(1) That all member authorities subscribe to the South Central Consortium arrangements based on Portsmouth City Council;
(2) That the South Central Consortium arrangements be used to co-ordinate information on accommodation for evacuees from Kosovo; and
(3) That the officers report further on the corporate implications of these developments.
1. The Government is introducing legislation to manage the dispersal of asylumseekers in order to alleviate the burden on London and the South East and on local authorities in general. If enacted, the direct costs of asylum seekers' presence will be met by an Asylum Support Directorate of the Home Office. Indirect costs will continue to be met by local authorities and others.
2. Local authority Consortia are being established throughout the country to manage dispersal of asylum seekers in partnership. Our local Consortium covers Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton, the Isle of Wight, Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset.
3. Kosovan refugees (technically evacuees, not necessarily asylum seekers) may be accommodated in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. It is recommended that the South Central Consortium arrangements be used to co-ordinate information locally on potential accommodation.
1. With the Immigration and Asylum Bill currently before Parliament, the Government hopes to:-
(i) Significantly reduce the time taken to process asylum applications to a maximum of six months (current average is two years).
(ii) Reduce the backlog of existing applications.
(iii) Reduce the burden on Local Authorities.
The legislation and new support structure is expected to be in place by April 2000. In the interim, the Government is keen to see arrangements in place to address the problems created by the presence of significant numbers of asylum seekers in London and the South East.
2. Quite separately, the Balkan crisis has led to the likelihood that this area will be asked to accommodate evacuees from Kosovo, some of whom may in due course seek asylum in the United Kingdom.
3. This report proposes that HIOW authorities work together through a new South Central Consortium for asylum seekers. The normal emergency planning arrangements will apply for evacuees but the new Consortium will be helpful in co-ordinating information, particularly on potential emergency accommodation.
ASYLUM SEEKERS - CURRENT SITUATION
4. Currently there are about 18,000 asylum seekers being supported by social services in London. There are in total 75,000 awaiting a decision about their application for asylum. The Immigration and Asylum Bill will mean that asylum seekers will be dispersed in all parts of the country, and the direct costs associated with their presence (accommodation, food, clothing etc) will be picked up by Central Government, through the establishment of the Asylum Support Directorate.
5. In the interim period, the Government (through the LGA) has asked local authorities to come together as Consortia on a regional basis, to develop protocols and agreements on how dispersal can best be managed. Membership of each Consortium must have social services, housing and registered social landlords as well as the refugee councils. If authorities choose not to be part of a Consortium, the Home Secretary will reserve powers to direct authorities to participate. There are 12 regional Consortia at various levels of development - in this area a South Central Consortium consisting of Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton, the Isle of Wight, Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset is being established. A meeting of the Consortium has been arranged for 27 May and an oral report will be made.
6. The advantage of becoming part of a Consortium is better management of the placement and dispersal of asylum seekers. When dispersal begins, the Consortium will enable authorities to influence how and where asylum seekers are placed.
CURRENT SITUATION IN KOSOVO - AIRLIFTS
7. There are, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), about 1.1 million displaced Kosovars. The vast majority are being accommodated in the frontline states of Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia. The Macedonian Government has recently stated that it is no longer able to take any more. UNHCR has asked other countries to take some of these displaced people. Some 32 countries have accepted refugees - including Germany, Romania, Turkey and most recently the United Kingdom.The United Kingdom Government stance remains that refugees should be accommodated as near as possible to their own country; it is, however, inevitable that some will be airlifted.The indications are that initially they will be taken to the north, but it is very likely that Hampshire will be asked to take some. The airlifted refugees might initially be given a 12 month visa and would have a right to claim asylum.
8. Reception and accommodation of evacuees will be co-ordinated through the Refugee Council and locally through a partnership of the Emergency Planning Team, Red Cross and individual local authorities.
ASSESSMENT OF IMPACT
9. The dispersal of asylum seekers to this area clearly will have an impact which will be monitored closely by the Consortium, by individual authorities and by the LGA. The possibility of an influx of Kosovo evacuees means that it is particularly important to consider all the potential implications, not just housing. Authorities will need to consider the impacts on their services such as education and social services. They will also need to consider, in partnership with others, the wider impact on the community, on employment, health services etc. It is recommended that further situation reports are brought to HIOW to show how the authorities are working together to deal with these issues.
Director of Social Services, Hampshire County Council
Director of Social Services, Portsmouth City Council
|Author:||Nick Goulder, Policy Manager|
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