On Tuesday, the Government announced that with immediate effect all asylum applications made by people who don’t declare themselves at their port of entry will have to be made in person at the Asylum Screening Unit in Croydon. Previously, the UK Border Agency’s office in Liverpool handled about a quarter of such claims. Croydon Council was not consulted or even informed about this decision in advance.
This decision places an unfair burden on Croydon. It is wrong in principle for one local authority area to have to deal with what is a national problem.
Of course, we benefit from the jobs that the UK Border Agency brings to the town but their presence also puts pressure on local public services. For example, we are currently looking after over 700 unaccompanied asylum seeking children: catering for these children, many of whom do not speak English and some of whom have undergone traumatic experiences, poses a real challenge to local schools. This decision is inevitably going to increase those pressures.
But above and beyond the issue of principle of whether it is fair to ask Croydon to shoulder all the burden, what is particularly scandalous is that the Government doesn’t properly compensate us for the costs involved. At the moment, we spend about £33 million a year directly caring for asylum seekers and get about £30 million a year back from the Government. In addition, there are indirect costs of £5-6 million. It is completely unacceptable for the Government to expect Croydon Council Taxpayers to foot this bill.
I will be lobbying Damian Green MP, the Shadow Minister for Immigration, about this issue. I hope that a Conservative Government will ensure that the burden of dealing with in-country applications is spread around the country but, failing that, the Government must properly compensate Croydon Council Taxpayers.