UK Government plan to almost double the number of asylum seekers dispersed to Wales
The UK Home Office has a plan in place to almost double the number of asylum seekers dispersed to Wales whilst awaiting a decision on their asylum application, the Senedd has been told.
Minister for Social Justice and Chief Whip Jane Hutt MS was updating the Senedd on Wales as a nation of sanctuary when she informed MSs of the plan.
In recent weeks, the UK Government has announced the closure of all Afghan bridging hotels and asylum contingency hotels and is instead planning to open large-scale asylum accommodation sites across the UK.
In relation to Afghanistan, Jane Hutt informed the Senedd that she expects the hotel closures to happen in late summer.
“We’re seeking urgent clarification on funding available for local government to meet this housing need. However, we are concerned that the UK Government has imposed an arbitrary deadline for hotel closures for those who supported our armed forces in Afghanistan.”
Ms Hutt also said she’s informed UK Government ministers that action is needed to increase the local housing allowance rates, and consider changes to the benefit cap to make rented accommodation more affordable.
Confirming she had also met with the UK Minister for Immigration, Robert Jenrick, she said: “I made it clear that the Welsh Government is opposed to the use of ships or military bases to accommodate asylum seekers in Wales,” she said.
“However, we are committed to finding solutions in the very challenging housing market that we currently have.”
Since the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 was given Royal Assent, asylum application processing times have slowed considerably, “leaving many in limbo in our communities,” Ms Hutt said.
The Illegal Migration Bill is already making this even worse, she added, “by including a retrospective date of 7 March, by which almost all applications will be considered inadmissible.”
“This means that almost all of those arriving in the UK in the last 12 months are yet to have claims looked at by the Home Office,” she added.
“Each of those individuals are living in accommodation, unable to work, unable to deal with the trauma they have experienced, and unable to fully integrate with their communities.”
Wales has now welcomed around 800 people from Afghanistan and work continues to increase this further, she confirmed.
“We will do everything that we can to address and take forward our responsibilities, even though immigration isn’t devolved.”
Due to recent fighting between two rival generals in the capital Khartoum, thousand of Sudanese people have also been displaced.
The minister said: “The UK Government Home Secretary has ruled out a refugee resettlement route. At the end of 2022, there were almost 5,000 Sudanese sanctuary seekers receiving support in the UK, including around 100 living in Wales.”
The majority of applications from Sudan were already granted prior to this outbreak of fighting, she said.
“So, we do urge UK Ministers to add Sudan as a country of origin eligible for the streamlined asylum process for those in the UK system.”
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