LIMIT ON ASY­LUM SEEK­ERS

Home Of­fice agrees num­bers cap after Roker Av­enue rape

Sunderland Echo - - Front Page - By Fiona Thompson [email protected]­me­dia.co.uk Twit­ter: @fionath­omp­son__

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.

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