EXCLUSIVE: Home Office threatens to ramp up pressure on asylum

By Struan Walker | 14 September 2023

Uncooperative councils could be strong-armed into taking greater numbers of asylum seekers, The MJ understands.

As of June, only 61% of local authorities were taking part in home secretary Suella Braverman’s flagship Full Dispersal programme – under which some UK regions will take more asylum seekers - an increase of just 13% in 15 months.

Home Office officials are believed to have told a recent meeting of the West Midlands strategic migration partnership board that if agreement was ‘not reached with certain local authorities then a more directive approach would be taken’.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council said it would consider taking legal action if there was a ‘significant departure from the agreed allocations’ under the Home Office’s Full Dispersal programme.

Seven councils including Stoke-on-Trent launched legal proceedings against the Home Office over its asylum dispersal scheme in 2021 but later withdrew the action.

Minutes from the recent West Midlands board meeting read: ‘If the Government allow any local authority to pass on Full Dispersal, the credibility of the policy would disappear.’

According to the minutes, board chair Tim Johnson, who is chief executive of Wolverhampton City Council, called for ‘clear communication from ministers that is not undermined by policies’.

The minutes continued: ‘It would be helpful for some unambiguous communication from ministers concerning the local authorities who are choosing not to participate in Full Dispersal.

'There needs to be trust and confidence that the policy means something.’

Home Office officials have privately admitted recent months have been ‘tough’ and have acknowledged they need to ‘rebuild trust and credibility’.

According to Government figures, the North West currently houses almost a quarter (24%) of asylum seekers - more than double the amount of any other region.

Under the Government’s plan, the 12 UK regions need to accommodate another 39,214 beds to fulfil the Home Office’s target to settle 100,000 asylum seekers.

Mr Johnson did not respond to a request for comment.

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