Fears firm ‘can’t afford’ to place Leeds asylum seekers

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The private sector firm hired to look after asylum seekers coming into Leeds can’t afford to place them anywhere apart from in the inner cities - despite fears that this could have a negative impact on “community cohesion”.

The admission is made in a document laying out details of the city’s preparation to receive up to 200 Syrian refugees in the next two years.

Up to 25 families could arrive by the end of this year.

The city will also welcome eight ‘unaccompanied’ Syrian children to help relieve pressure on Kent council, which has been struggling to cope with large numbers of new arrivals in Dover who are travelling alone. Other councils are also taking a quota of newcomers.

Leeds City Council has now set up a Refugee Task Force to help the city play its part in a national undertaking to look after 20,000 Syrian refugees fleeing civil war in the Middle Eastern country.

The 20,000 are being offered support as part of the Gateway Protection Programme where refugees become tenants of rented accommodation and are immediately entitled to financial support to help them pay their rent.

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The YEP has reported previously that council bosses have made available £100,000 of Government funding to help charities look after the city’s new arrivals.

A council watchdog panel will next week debate the wider proposals, and a report to be presented at the meeting says: “One concern has been the concentration of asylum seekers in LS7, 8, 9 and 11 post codes and the impact this has on community cohesion in those areas.

“G4S have recently started to consider other areas of the city but rental costs restrict their ability to make significant change.”

G4S Group, which does not work on the Gateway scheme, won the contract to manage the housing of asylum seekers across Yorkshire and the Humber in 2012.

The council still oversees the arrangements to ensure that the houses where people are placed meet legal requirements.

The report to next week’s Citizens and Communities scrutiny panel also reveals that less than 10 families will be housed in council houses, a tiny fraction of the 4,000 council house properties let every year by Leeds City Council.

The remainder will be accommodated in private sector rented and housing association properties, as well as vacant accommodation which has been offered up specifically for them.

The report says: “Whilst there are currently 21,000 on the council housing waiting list, most of these are not currently homeless and the Syrian refugee position does not conflict with this.”

It adds that Leeds has given a “positive response...in relation to the Government call for support for Syrian refugees” and that “our vision is for Leeds to be a compassionate, caring city”.

But is also stresses the need to “be realistic about what is possible, recognising where there are issues and concerns and address these appropriately”.

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