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Liverpool mayor criticises system of ‘asylum apartheid’

The mayor of Liverpool has described a situation of “asylum apartheid”, claiming poorer northern cities have to look after asylum seekers while their richer southern counterparts do not.

Joe Anderson warned of "community cohesion" problems as a result of the government's private contractor Serco sending too many to some areas.

He told BBC Radio 4's File on 4: "There seems to be a sort of asylum apartheid operating where certain cities are the ones that are taking the unfair share."

The Home Office said no area in the north west exceeded agreed limits of one accommodated asylum seeker per 200 local residents. They are known as cluster limits and calculated on a local authority-wide basis.

But Liverpool City Council is concerned this ratio is being exceeded in at least six wards in the city, in some by as much as 300%.

Of 22,500 asylum seekers in the UK more than 6,000 are officially accommodated in the north west. Liverpool itself has just under 1,400, compared with 287 for the whole of the South East of England excluding London.

Mayor Anderson said: “Everybody's got to play their part... [so] it's not just left to the poorest wards or areas in the city where Serco can afford to buy houses.

"It causes problems for community cohesion."

The mayor is also critical of Home Office plans to locate the final appeals centre for asylum seekers in Liverpool. He fears it could see more than 5,000 extra asylum seekers going to Liverpool each year.

Liverpool City Council is now in the process of seeking a judicial review of the plans.

Mayor Anderson said: “We’re going to keep the legal challenge going against this. I call it a kind of asylum apartheid. The poorest places take the asylum seekers, like Liverpool and Glasgow.

“Southern cities don’t actually take them.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The United Kingdom has a long and proud history of offering sanctuary to those who genuinely need it and each claim is carefully considered on its individual merits.

“But when someone is found not to need our protection, we expect them to leave the country voluntarily. Where they do not, we will seek to enforce their departure.

“These changes will apply only to failed asylum seekers whose claims have already been refused. They will significantly speed up decision-making, enabling us to grant protection more quickly to those who genuinely need it.

“The Home Office has deferred the changes for a short period in order to discuss the implementation plans further with Liverpool City Council.”

Asylum Seekers in Dispersed Accommodation, Quarter 3 2014

North West - 6,015

West Midlands - 3,786

Yorkshire and The Humber - 3,166

Scotland - 2,544

North East - 2,419

East Midlands - 1,939

Wales - 1,938

London - 852

South West - 700

Northern Ireland - 450

East of England - 345

South East - 287

Other and Unknown - 124

Total - 24,565

Source: Home Office

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