Leeds is helping far fewer families who are fleeing persecution and war now than it did 10 years ago, new figures have revealed.
A council report seen by the Yorkshire Evening Post shows the city is currently supporting 563 people who have sought asylum. The report says that “whilst this figure has risen in recent months, it is still quite a bit less than the peak seen in the middle of the last decade”.
The document also reveals that Yorkshire as a whole has 4,000 supported asylum seekers currently, compared to more than double that - 10,000 - that it was giving sanctuary to 10 years ago.
Other notable numbers in the report - which is being presented to senior councillors next week as part of the city’s official case for accepting 200 Syrian refugees - include the revelation that there are currently 15,000 pupils in Leeds schools for whom English is not a first language. The number equates to 18 per cent of all primary school pupils - almost one in every five.
The document also reveals that the Yorkshire and the Humber region currently accepts “above average numbers of asylum seekers per head of population within the UK”, and that “the three Northern English regions currently accommodate half of all of the UK’s asylum seekers”.
The debate around asylum and refugees has gathered pace in recent days as the Syrian refugee crisis deepens.
As reported in the YEP, a council task force has judged that 200 Syrians can be helped by Leeds without putting strain on local services such as schools and housing. This was after Prime Minister David Cameron promised Britain would accept 20,000 people currently in refugee camps.
The council is expecting the Government to meet the costs associated with helping those fleeing Syria. However senior councillors are also expected next week to authorise handing £100,000 from council funds to help charities in the city supporting refugees.
The offer was made following talks involving the NHS, police and charities.
Leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake said yesterday: “While we are still waiting to hear from the government on how they specifically see local authorities helping refugees trying to escape conflicts in the Middle East such as Syria, we have been very keen to ensure that when the details are confirmed, Leeds is ready and able to act as soon as possible.
“The creation of a city task force was a key part in ensuring that our response as a city would be both structured and coordinated. This work has helped inform a view that Leeds should offer to take up to 200 refugees from Syria over the course of the next two years, which I fully support.
“The response and offers of assistance from the people of Leeds to this crisis has been overwhelming, and as a compassionate city which also has City of Sanctuary status, we are determined to do everything in our power to help those people desperately in need of our help.”