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Asylum seekers: "We're not asking for charity"
AT PRESENT, 780 asylum seekers are known to Newcastle city council. Since April, 153 have been dispersed to the city under the new legislation. There are 3,000 asylum seekers in a Tyne and Wearside region with a population of just over a million.
An amendment to the National Assistance Act 1948 removed responsibility for supporting destitute asylum-seekers from council social services.
Now asylum-seekers will get only one offer of accommodation. If they refuse, they're entitled to no other support. Earlier this year, some councils with a concentration of asylum seekers began dispersal. Kent county council has contracted out to private organisations to house asylum-seekers in the regions.
Many asylum seekers are accommodated in hostels. One hostel that Kent contracted out to is Angel Heights hostel, a former nurse's home in Newcastle, which houses 250 men from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Kurdistan.
Parvas, a university-qualified engineer, fled Iran after the student protest movement for reform was clamped down upon last year. He told us: "After two months we've heard nothing of our cases. Our legal services are in London. We only get £7 a week so we're deprived of education, sports, transport and activities. Some of us walk for two to three hours to English language classes".
An Iraqi asylum seeker at Angel Heights said: "We don't want United Nations charity. We don't want to be separate from British people. We want jobs, so we can have dignity"
BRITAIN HOSTS less than 1% of the world's 21 million refugees, while out of those who apply for asylum in Britain 54% are eventually given leave to remain.
PUTTING ASYLUM seekers in large hostels in cities with a low population of ethnic minorities leaves many vulnerable to attack. Dimitre lives in a Newcastle hostel for homeless people on a tower block complex with eight other Czech Roma families. He feels authorities are slow to tackle racial attacks.
He said: "My wife was coming back from the shop and a man spat at her. The next day graffiti appeared on our door threatening to kill us. There was a picture of a head with a hole in it. Every time the graffiti is cleaned, new graffiti reappears.
"We want to leave this place. We were told our children cannot go to school because they live in emergency accommodation".
In The Socialist 23 June 2000: