Sunderland MP writes to Home Office over city's asylum issues
Sunderland MP Julie Elliott has backed a council leader's pleas to the Government to put a temporary halt on asylum seekers coming to the city in the wake of a campaign group's calls over housing issues.
In a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, she urged the Home Office to temporarily halt any fresh applicants from being allocated to Wearside while they seek to remain in the country.
It comes as the MP has also told residents’ group Rokereye that she supports their efforts to find a solution to the number of Home of Multipleoccupation (HMOs) in the city, which she has described as an “increasingly difficult issue” in Sunderland.
Her note refers to a letter sent by Sunderland City Council leader, Coun Graeme Miller and his deputy, Coun Michael Mordey, which referred to the “re-emergence of tensions in Sunderland” in regards to those sent to the area through the Government’s dispersal policy.
Councillor Mordey said he had called on the Home Secretary asking for a stop to the programme in Sunderland in the wake of concerns in the community regarding antisocial behaviour and crime in the area.
Ms Elliott states in her letter she is in total support of the councillor’s call and has said action should be taken as a matter of urgency.
In the letter she asks “that in light of the current tensions within the city” that “a temporary stop is put on any new asylum seekers being allocated to the city of Sunderland”.
She added: “I feel the police and council are doing everything within their powers and resources to address the situation facing our city, but I do feel very strongly that in the current climate they need to be given the space and time to deal with the situation.”
The latest Home Office figures available, which refer to 2016, show there were 271 people seeking asylum staying in Sunderland, with 3,411 in total living in the North East at that stage.
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Ms Elliott told the Echo: “The Home Office needs to act on my letter as soon as possible in order to allow local services to deal with serious issues which are currently affecting some of my constituents.
“It is important that whilst Sunderland remains a welcoming and diverse city, we also have safe communities where everyone can feel at ease in their neighbourhood and homes. “
Deputy Leader of Sunderland City Council and Chair of the Safer Sunderland Partnership, Councillor Michael Mordey said: “The letter which was already prepared to send to the Home Office, included additions detailing actions agreed by councillors following a meeting on the 11th June, attended by residents of the Roker area, council and police.
“At the meeting residents raised issues relating to the number of HMOs in the area, general anti-social behavior and crime issues, environmental concerns and perceptions that a high number of asylum seekers were residing in the area.
“Following the meeting, the council have committed to working with our regional and national community partners, which include the Home Office and the police, so we can move forward to see how these issues can best be addressed.
“ We are currently awaiting a response from the Home Office to our letter and are continuing to hold regular drop-in sessions, alongside police, with the residents of Roker and surrounding areas to ensure concerns continue to be listened to and feedback given.”
A Home Office spokesperson: “We take the wellbeing of asylum seekers and the local communities in which they live extremely seriously.
“We will be meeting Sunderland City Council together with other North East Local Authorities in the very near future to discuss the concerns they have raised.
“We are committed to working closely with local partners, including local authorities and the police, to identify, manage and prevent welfare and cohesion problems.”