Posted on November 18, 2022

Rural Areas Will Be Asked to House More Asylum Seekers, Minister Suggests

Rajeev Syal, The Guardian, November 16, 2022

Rural areas will be asked to accept more people seeking asylum, a minister has suggested, as the government faced criticism from Conservative MPs for placing migrants in their constituencies.

Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, said small towns and the countryside may be asked to house more people crossing the Channel in small boats “as long as numbers are so high”.

His comments were made in parliament as MPs expressed concern at the chaotic procedures of his department.

Jonathan Gullis, the Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, said people seeking asylum were being “dumped on” his constituency by private contractor Serco.

“When is the minister going to tell Serco Stoke-on-Trent has done its bit and to no more use it? And if he won’t, why won’t he?” he asked.

Jenrick said the government was “attempting to procure accommodation in a much broader range of local authorities than has been seen in the past”.

“Historically, the issue was centred on cities including Stoke-on-Trent. We are now seeking to procure accommodation more broadly in smaller cities, towns and indeed in some cases in rural areas.

“That does mean, I am afraid, that as long as numbers are so high that more parts of the country experience this issue – but it does ensure greater fairness as to how, as a country, we tackle it.”

Another Tory MP said someone under police investigation for a serious offence was housed in a hotel in his constituency but has gone missing.

Greg Smith, the MP for Buckingham, said: “Buckinghamshire council learned third-hand from a London borough just this morning that an asylum seeker who is under investigation for a very serious offence was transferred to the asylum hotel in Buckingham by the Metropolitan police but was not escorted into the premises and has since gone missing.

“That process is wholly unacceptable.”

Reports have claimed that the offender identified by Greg Smith in parliament was accused of rape.

According to the Telegraph, a 39-year-old suspect was arrested and taken into custody by Metropolitan police officers after reports that a teenage boy had been raped at a hotel in Waltham Forest, London, on 5 October. He is currently on bail pending further inquiries and must return to the police station in early January.

A Home Office source said: “The bail conditions of this suspect is a matter for the police and we do not have any powers to detain him. There is no evidence he has absconded.”

Philip Hollobone, the MP for Kettering, claimed that Albanian migrants were behind a crime wave in his constituency. “From where I’m sitting, at this present time, His Majesty’s government is neither protecting our shores, nor protecting my local community from an increase in imported crime,” he said.

The Albanian prime minister has recently criticised UK politicians for fuelling anti-Albanian racism by making unfounded claims.

Europe is facing a wave of migration from the Middle East, Africa and Asia, but the UK receives a much smaller proportion of people than most neighbours. Seventeen EU countries received larger numbers of asylum applications per capita last year, according to an analysis of official figures.

The criticisms follow a lukewarm reception of the latest UK-France deal signed on Monday, which will cost UK taxpayers £63m a year.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, told the Commons the government was “simply not doing enough” to deal with criminal gangs involved in small boat crossings.

Jenrick said more than 30,000 “illegal crossings” had been prevented since the start of the year, with hundreds of arrests made and 21 organised crime gangs dismantled.

More than 40,000 people have crossed in small boats so far this year, including 1,800 last weekend alone, according to official figures. The government predicted in February that the numbers arriving in the UK via small boats could reach 60,000.

At a later parliamentary hearing, Charlie Taylor, HM chief inspector of prisons, raised the treatment of young people at Manston processing centre, which he visited earlier this year.

Some staff in charge of children had not undergone full disclosure and barring service checks as required by law, he told MPs and peers at the joint committee on human rights, while some young women at the site had not been given access to phones for more than 24 hours.

“There isn’t a single body of oversight and accountability. The worry is that different problems will slip through the cracks,” he said. The inspectorate is due to visit again soon, he added.