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Andy Burnham Makes Pronouncement on Asylum Seekers

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Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham’s latest pronouncement has been made on the subject of asylum seekers. Does he have a point?

Since Mr Burnham became Mayor of Manchester in May 2017, he has vowed to rid the streets of Manchester of the homeless. He has waged war, and drawn my ire, on the subject of rogue landlords. 

I was not impressed. We all have concerns about those landlords who bring disrepute to the private sector, but how did he intend to effect a change that would cure the problem? Perhaps his latest pronouncement will, eventually, address some of the concerns about rogue landlords, but then, perhaps not?

Mr. Burnham has announced that Manchester is on the verge of saying they will accept no more asylum seekers and accusing the Government’s system of ‘mounting chaos’. He has written to the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, saying that the region supports a ‘disproportionate number’ of asylum seekers compared with other parts of the country and asking him to consider his comments. 

To be fair, the system was introduced because many southern regions were swamped with asylum seekers, but as often happens, there is no middle way with Government. ‘Dispersal’ of asylum seekers was introduced by the last Labour Government to ease numbers in the South; this system sees few being placed in the South and the Southeast (expensive areas to provide accommodation). 

Easing demand in the South has led to over-demand in the North-West. Manchester houses more than 1,000 and is the fifth highest provider of any local authority in the country; Bolton, Rochdale and Wigan follow closely behind. These are all areas of some deprivation. However, if everyone is being treated identically, how can Mr. Burnham complain?

That of course is the point. Not all authorities were as willing to volunteer to take asylum seekers; 180 authorities house no asylum seekers at all. The Northwest played its’ part (and indeed saw at least one of those involved in the scheme decorated for his co-operation) there seems no equity; no feeling that the very large numbers accommodated may be putting pressure on local services.

The article printed in the local weekly news, reported that in 2016 very high numbers of asylum seekers were being placed in some of the poorest areas in the region because of the availability of cheap housing. 

Cheap housing will often (though not always) be of a poor standard, with landlords being unaware of or uncaring about the legal requirements. These areas are often the ones to which illegal asylum seekers gravitate. Often overcrowded, with poor sanitation, sheds in the garden accommodating other unfortunates and ‘tenants’ too frightened, due to their illegal status, to make any complaint.

Whilst entertained by the fact that Mr. Burnham can publicly make comments that in our mouths could be classed as racism, the main point must be that finally, the Northwest has someone prepared to say the situations we have seen since dispersal was introduced by the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 and came into forced in 2,000, have put a disproportionate weight on the North West. 

The effects of refusing more asylum seekers may put some rogue landlords out of business. Of course, the reverse may apply – that poor landlords increase in numbers but operate under-cover. 

Let us hope that Mr. Burnham’s well-meaning intentions have only positive effects. (Thanks to Manchester Weekly News, 8th November 2018)

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