Is Coventry set to welcome more asylum seekers?

The budget for Asylum seeker support is set to increase massively in the Coventry City council budget for 2018.

Under the section of adult social care in the recently published council budget the amount allocated to Asylum seeker support has increased from £0 in 2017 to over £400,000 in 2018.

Such a sharp increase in this area of the budget could lead to suggestions that the local government is expected an influx in migrants to the area. However this is contrary to a recent study done by the office of national statistics, which shows that net migration has decreased from the last study.

The Coventry refugee and Migrant centre exists to welcome and meet the needs of refugees and migrants to help them settle in Coventry, to support their integration, and to encourage them to contribute to the life of the city.

Naill Mann communications officer at the centre spoke to me about the organisation and if it would be affected by this increase in the council budget.

“Without knowing the specific details of the money and what exactly it is for, we can’t really provide a comment. What I can say is that we exist as an organisation to welcome and support newly arrived communities – including asylum seekers – so that they can rebuild their lives in peace and safety, and begin integrating and contributing to the life of Coventry”.

“We’re actually currently under review by the council, so are unaware of exactly what our funding will be moving forwards. What I can say is that previous funding has been used to help pay for the frontline services we offer to refugees and other migrants”.

Naill Also highlighted the role the city of Coventry plays in the asylum seeking process.

“Coventry has been a dispersal city – an area which asylum seekers are sent to after lodging their claim of asylum – for a long time, and so would have been receiving and using money for this previously. Therefore I assume this money will be used for that, but again you’d have to check as it’s not something we’re aware off / directly involved in. It could be something entirely different.”

“For a bit of background, while an asylum seeker is waiting to hear whether the Home Office believes their case and thus either grants them asylum or not, they are legally not allowed to work. As such they are sent to a dispersal city – such as Coventry – and are given £37 a week to cover all their costs e.g. food, clothing, washing, transport. It should take a maximum of six months for this process to be complete, but can often last years and in rare cases, decades. They do not have a choice in where they are sent to and the accommodation they are given is often substandard”.

“We offer employment support to help newly arrived people secure a job. The people we work with do have qualifications and are keen to work. However, because of differences between countries in employment systems, the fact that their qualifications may not be recognised here and the fact they are unable to work during their claim for asylum – leaving a big gap in employment on their CV – they often struggle to get their foot on the ladder. We help to prevent this”.

A success story from this is Spring Action, which is a social enterprise which offers a cleaning service to businesses, was set up in April by the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre to provide work and new hope for refugees and migrants who would otherwise struggle to find jobs.

Mike Gabriel – a former bank manager – who is now Spring Action’s business co-ordinator had this to say about the enterprise.

“We projected revenue of £30,000 in the first year and we are on schedule to exceed that. But although that’s important, it’s not the main point.

“We have created work for people who would otherwise not have work. We have 15 members of staff, some of whom regularly work 20 hours a week, and others who are available for work as it crops up.”

“The cleaners are all women from sub-Saharan Africa, although there is one man on the staff, and a woman from Japan. They are paid the living wage of £8.45 an hour, which is above the national minimum wage of £7.50 an hour for over-25s”.

We contacted the council to get a detailed look at what the money was being used for but they failed to respond.

 

Benjamin Rees

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