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The North-South Asylum Divide: Refugees Most Likely to be Housed in the North

A clear regional disparity exists when it comes to housing people seeking asylum, with the majority of families concentrated in deprived regions

Street art of Andy Burnham in the Northern Quarter, Manchester. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Images/Alamy

The North-South Asylum DivideRefugees Most Likely to be Housed in the North

A clear regional disparity exists when it comes to housing people seeking asylum, with the majority of families concentrated in deprived regions

An investigation by the Byline Intelligence Team has revealed a north-south divide of where people seeking asylum are housed once they arrive in the UK.

Political leaders in the north of England have said that they are ready to welcome Afghan refugees into the region but urged for greater fairness in the way in which people seeking asylum are distributed across the country. 

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, told BBC Radio 4 that his city would “stand ready” to welcome people fleeing the situation in Afghanistan but asked for a “coordinated approach” from the Government that is “fair” to regions like Greater Manchester. 

His comments came after the Government committed to a resettlement programme that would welcome 5,000 Afghan refugees this year, and 15,000 more in the “long-term”. No deadline has yet been set for when those 15,000 people will be resettled in the UK. 

Regional Disparity 

According to data from the Migration Observatory from June 2020, the north-east and north-west of England house the majority of people seeking asylum and resettled refugees. 

In the north-east of England, there are 1.6 people who have sought asylum per 1,000 of the resident population, and 0.7 resettled refugees per 1,000 of the resident population.

This compares to the 0.1 people seeking asylum and 0.2 resettled refugees per 1,000 resident population in the south-east.

The second-highest population of hosted asylum seekers is in the north-west, where Andy Burnham is mayor. The region hosts 1.4 people seeking asylum per 1,000 resident population. 

Throughout the data, there is a clear north-south divide between where people seeking asylum are housed.

The third-largest population of people seeking asylum is Yorkshire and the Humber (1.1 per 1,000 resident population) followed by the West Midlands (1 per 1,000). 

London has 0.7 people seeking asylum per 1,000 resident population. Both the east of England and the south-west have the lowest, with 0.2 people seeking asylum per 1,000 resident population. 

Across the four nations, Scotland has 0.7 per 1,000 (and 0.7 resettled refugees per 1,000 resident population); Wales has 0.9; and Northern Ireland has 0.4. 

During the House of Commons debate on Afghanistan this week, the Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent interrupted the Scottish National Party’s Ian Blackford to urge more councils to take refugees. He falsely claimed that Glasgow was the only local authority in Scotland to host people seeking asylum. Blackford urged for a “summit of the four nations” to discuss how best to support people arriving from Afghanistan.

It is striking that the regions which host the highest number of people seeking asylum per 1,000 resident population are among the most deprived in the country. Liverpool, Manchester and Blackpool in the north-west all score high on deprivation by local authority; as do Newcastle, Durham and Sunderland in the north-east; and Birmingham in the Midlands. The north-east also tends to have above-average levels of unemployment. 

Research published in 2017 found that 57% of people seeking asylum were housed in the poorest parts of the country. These tended to be in traditional ‘Red Wall’ Labour seats. In response to the 2017 data, Labour MP Yvette Cooper accused the system of being a “deeply unfair shambles”. She argued that the 2012 decision by the Government to outsource asylum accommodation to companies such as Serco and Clearspring had led to the disparity, as companies sought to procure cheap housing. 

Life For People Seeking Asylum

When a person seeks asylum in the UK, they are housed either in temporary accommodation, such as a hotel; or in the community while their application is assessed. 

The former receive an £8 a week allowance, accommodation and food packages. Those living in the community receive a £39.63 allowance uploaded onto a debit card, as well as accommodation. The low level of income means that many people seeking asylum are reliant on charity for food, clothes and travel costs. 

The latter is vitally important not only for people to integrate into their new home, but because people seeking asylum often have to travel across or between cities to check-in with the authorities. Byline Times recently reported how some women who have survived domestic abuse must now travel for miles to register their biometric data with the Home Office. 

People seeking asylum are not allowed to work although children can go to school. 

Delays in the system mean that, increasingly, families are left in limbo for months if not years while their applications are processed. 

Data compiled by the Byline Intelligence Team has revealed that, while in quarter three of 2014, 87% of people with an asylum application received an initial decision within six months, that number was only 22% by quarter two in 2020. 

By 31 December 2020, 64,895 people were waiting for a decision on their asylum claim. 

If a claim is refused, people have the right to appeal but, during that process, they receive no state support and are left destitute. Others will be deported. 

Since the Afghanistan war began in 2001, the UK has given refuge to 29,184 people from the country – while rejecting claims from 32,213 people. 

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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