LIMIT ON ASYLUM SEEKERS
Home Office agrees numbers cap after Roker Avenue rape
The Government has agreed to put a limit on the number of asylum seekers being sent to stay in Sunderland “at the current time” after pleas from city chiefs.
Sunderland City Council was joined by Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott in writing to Home Secretary Sajid Javid earlier this year urging him to put a temporary halt to those sent to stay in Wearside.
Now, in the wake of a trial where two men were found guilty of raping a woman at asylum seekers’ accommodation in Roker Avenue, in June, the council has confirmed the Government agreed not to increase bed spaces in Sunderland while concerns raised by communities are dealt with.
The city is currently home to about 400 asylum seekers.
Coun Mordey gave an update on the issue in the wake of Saheed Rasoolli, 30, and Araz Abdulla, 23, being found guilty of rape by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court.
He said: “I welcome these convictions.
“It is only right, correct and proper that anyone who commits a crime – and especially serious sexual crimes such as rape – is dealt with by the courts and our judicial system.”
Offering an update on the dispersal programme, Coun Mordey explained more about the issues faced in the city due to the case and other areas of concern raised by residents.
He also said work is ongoing in regards to Homes of Multi-Occupation (HM0), where many of the asylum seekers have been housed, with the rise in the number, particularly in Roker, causing fears about disorder.
He said: “Sunderland and the North East have a long history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers and continues to do so.
“We did have some issues with asylum seekers being clustered in an area which already has an over concentration of houses in multiple occupation.
“That’s why the council and the local MP wrote to the Home Office in June asking for a temporary pause in any increase in numbers until we have an agreed plan with the Home Office which avoids over concentrations of asylum dispersal property in any location in the city.
“At the same time we continue to work actively with residents to address the wider issue of HMOs.
“The safety of everyone in our city always has been and always will be a priority for this council and we, along with the police, will continue to work with local communities to address any genuine concerns that they have. We have had a positive response from the Home Office with an agreement to not increase bed spaces in the city at the current time.
“We continue to meet with the Home Office and its contractor G4S to look at the future of Home Office asylum dispersal which avoids concentrations.”
The council is not responsible for managing asylum seekers and their accommodation, but keeps a register and inspects all HMO properties over a certain capacity.
There are currently 148 across Sunderland.
Coun Mordey added: “The council has worked with its community partners.
“Especially with the police as a series of public meetings have been held where residents have been able to get facts and reassurances and not rumour or speculation.
“Listening to concerns and discussing how we all work together has always been and remains the best way to target criminal and anti-social behaviour, and that’s what has happened.
“The response to ‘pop-up’ meetings has been very supportive, and shows just how much people want to come forward and get involved in helping us to improve life in our communities.
“And, as mentioned, the council did also contact the Home Office about its dispersal programme.
“At the beginning of November, a planning application to turn the former Roker Family Practice into an HMO was rejected by the council.
“This policy is continuing and the council is introducing further rules and guidelines on HMOs as part of the Draft Local Plan. “The council has prosecuted unregistered HMOs and continues to monitor HMOs.
“The council inspects and monitors HMOs to ensure housing standards are met and residents are housed safely. The council has no powers to determine the mix of occupants in HMOs. It does not run the asylum programme.
“If there is anti-social behaviour or criminality anywhere, it should be reported to the authorities who can then act.”
Ms Elliott had previously said the situation had become an “increasingly difficult issue” and referred to the council letter from its leader, Coun Graeme Miller and his deputy, Coun Michael Mordey, which stated there had been the “re-emergence of tensions in Sunderland” in regards to those sent to the area through the Government’s dispersal policy.
But when asked to comment further, Ms Elliott would only say: “These issues are a matter for the council and I understand they continue to work with residents, the Home Office and other organisations to address the concerns raised.”
“We continue to work actively with residents”
COUN MICHAEL MORDEY
Roker Avenue and Sunderland City Council deputy leader Councillor Michael Mordey.