Thursday, 25 May 2017

UK Border Agency calls on councils to ensure 339 individuals are not left homeless

G4S misses asylum seeker deadline

Councils in the north of England have been forced to provide accommodation for hundreds of asylum seekers because a private company failed to meet its deadline to rehouse them.

Contracting giant G4S should have taken over the housing of asylum seekers from councils in Yorkshire and Humberside on Monday on behalf of the UK Border Agency.

But on the 12 November deadline councils were still housing 339 of the original 1,468 asylum seekers in the region, with Kirklees, Leeds and Barnsley councils housing the majority. The local authorities now have a contract direct with the UK Border Agency to accommodate the asylum seekers for a further four weeks.

It is very disappointing that G4S failed to deliver on their contractual obligations

Kirklees Council

A spokesperson for Kirklees Council, which is still housing 112 asylum seekers, said: ‘It is very disappointing that G4S failed to deliver on their contractual obligations despite strenuous and repeated efforts [to help them] from the council.’

G4S was one of three firms awarded six contracts worth a total of £620 million by UKBA for housing asylum seekers earlier this year to save £150 million over the six-year life of the contracts.

The company, which was heavily criticised over failures on its security contract for the Olympic Games, has struggled to find private sector accommodation in which to house the asylum seekers, particularly in areas with higher rents. It has moved some individuals away from the communities in which they were living.

The UKBA declined to say what, if any, sanctions G4S might face.

Pete Widlinski, information manager at charity North of England Refugee Service, said between 150 to 200 asylum seekers had come to the area from Yorkshire and Humberside.

‘This puts more pressure on our one-stop services,’ he said. ‘We took a 62 per cent cut in funding which means we don’t have as many staff. We are really struggling with the numbers [coming to our service].’

Jim Steinke, chief executive of charity the Northern Refugee Centre, said the situation was a ‘mess’, adding that UKBA was yet to address G4S’s ‘incompetence on every level’.

The spokesperson for Kirklees Council said the authority was entitled to decline the request from UKBA to continue to house the asylum seekers because it no longer had legal or contractual responsibility. But he added: ‘At the same time, we also have to consider the welfare of individual people.’

Leeds Council was still housing 104 asylum seekers on Monday while Barnsley Council had 92 individuals.

G4S referred all press enquiries on the matter to the UKBA.

A spokesperson for UKBA said: ‘Our priority is to provide housing for those in need. UKBA continues to work with partner agencies to ensure any disruption is kept to a minimum, and that people continue to receive the accommodation they require.’

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