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Thousands of asylum seekers supported by Black Country councils – and numbers shot up since start of lockdown

Thousands of asylum seekers are being supported by councils in the Black Country – and numbers have shot up since the start of lockdown.

Boat loads of refugees including men, women and children, braving the seas to find a way to Europe have become a familiar sight

Across the four boroughs, 2,466 people claiming asylum are receiving financial assistance and accommodation through Section 95 support, up nearly four per cent since the start of lockdown.

Home Office figures show Sandwell has more asylum seekers than almost anywhere else in the UK, with 927 people receiving support, while Wolverhampton has 828.

Asylum seekers in Walsall have risen by seven per cent since March to 461, while Dudley Council supports 250 asylum seekers, up three per cent.

The number of people waiting for an asylum decision hit a record high across the UK, with 45,769 getting support – 50 per cent more than five years ago.

Applicants are prevented from claiming welfare benefits while waiting for a decision, but are given taxpayer-funded accommodation, access to healthcare, education for children under 18, and £5.66 per day in aid.

The West Midlands is home to 5,721 asylum seekers – the fourth highest of all 12 UK regions. The most common nationality is Iraqi.

Campaigners have called on Ministers to speed up the applications process.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We are dealing with sustained high levels of asylum applications and Covid-19 has impacted on our ability to progress claims.”

Asylum system plagued by delays is crying out for change, MPs say

MPs have today called for an overhaul of the UK’s asylum system, saying it was vital migrants received a “better standard” of support.

The system is under review by the Government, with Home Secretary Priti Patel considering major changes to how asylum seekers are treated once they enter the UK.

Ministers are understood to be frustrated with the growing delays in the system, which currently has a record backlog of more than with 45,769 cases.

The issue has fallen under the spotlight in recent months due to a huge increase in the number of people arriving illegally in Britain via boats across the Channel from France.

Stuart Anderson, the Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West, said he has spoken to the Home Secretary regarding a series of “desperately needed” changes to the system.

He wants to see the application process fast-tracked so that all asylum applications are dealt with within a set period of time.

And he said it was “fundamentally wrong” that asylum seekers are barred from working while they await the outcome of their applications.

“When we complete Brexit and take control of our borders we will be able to monitor people who come in and out of the country,” Mr Anderson said.

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, by Border Force officers

“At the moment we are severely limited as to what we can do. I firmly believe that people should have a right to claim asylum. Some of them are coming from the most horrific situations, but to come to Britain and then be put on a process where they can’t work is fundamentally wrong.

“The process needs to be sped up, so asylum seekers can find out in a set time – whether it is six months or a year – what their status is. Not every application is straightforward, and where people are forced to wait longer, they should be able to work.

“Many asylum seekers are used to working in their home countries. They come here and want to earn a living. It’s a matter of personal pride.

“The system needs a complete overhaul and I welcome the Government’s review. It is a fine line, because people want Britain to control its borders, but once genuine asylum seekers are here they must receive a better standard of support.”

Pat McFadden, Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East, said too many people were being “left in limbo” due to failings with the current system.

He said: “Any MP will tell you that we get cases in our advice surgeries that have sometimes dragged on for years.

“It’s not right for the applicant or for the wider public interest because until a case is decided, the person is left in limbo.

“We need a system that comes to a decision more quickly. The government seems to be struggling with basic governance in a number of areas at the moment including this one.” The Home Office is understood to consider the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 as a “reset moment” on immigration. Among the plans being considered is a scheme aimed at speeding up and increasing the number of deportations of people who are not genuine asylum seekers.

Last year around 6,500 people were removed from the country, a figure which is said to represent a tiny fraction of the unauthorised population, which some believe to be more than one million.

Call for crackdown on the gangs aiding illegal migrant channel crossings

Conservative MP Jane Stevenson

An MP has called for a crackdown against criminal gangs facilitating illegal migrant crossings over the English Channel.

Jane Stevenson MP urged the Government to join forces with French intelligence services to track down the gangs behind the crossings.

More than 1,450 migrants made the crossing across the Channel from France to the UK in August alone, taking the number to more than 5,000 for the year.

And September 2 saw a record number of migrants crossing the Channel, with 409 asylum seekers taking advantage of calm seas to make their way to the UK.

Speaking in the Commons, Mrs Stevenson, the Conservative MP for Wolverhampton North East, said cooperation with French authorities was key to stopping the illegal crossings.

She told Home Office Ministers: “While each Channel route remains viable, criminal gangs will continue to exploit vulnerable people and put lives at risk. My constituents want these gangs stopped. What further intelligence measures can we take with our French colleagues to trace, perhaps, the vessels that are being purchased by criminal gangs? These are large vessels and surely more can be done to trace these.” Chris Philp MP, the Minister for Immigration Compliance, said work was under way to stop the crossings.

“The French authorities have clamped down a great deal on the sale of these vessels, so some of the more organised criminals now seek to procure them in other countries,” he said. “Many of the migrants have now resorted to stealing boats and other vessels.”

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