Kirklees and Swansea councillors back bid to support destitute asylum seekers

18 Jan 2014 11:00 Figures show there were 33 destitute asylum seekers and 300 supported by the Home Office in the borough last year

Congratulations Kirklees and Swansea: A bid to support destitute asylum seekers received the backing of councillors.

Figures show there were 33 destitute asylum seekers and 300 supported by the Home Office in the borough last year.

Kirklees councillors felt they could do more.

A motion by four Labour Party members was backed by the group, the Lib Dems, Greens and Valley Independents.

The Conservatives voted against it, saying the motion was about asylum seekers whose cases were investigated, heard and rejected.

Lorna Gledhill from Huddersfield Town of Sanctuary said many asylum seekers received around £5 a day without a right to work and those rejected have 21 days to leave without financial support.

She said Kirklees residents have welcomed people since 1937 and said: “We should be greatly proud of the compassion shown,” as she urged councillors to back the motion.

The motion backed calls for the council be able to offer the same support to destitute asylum seekers as they would a homeless person.

During the debate, Clr Peter O’Neill, Labour Cabinet member for children’s services, said: “The British people have a tradition of giving sanctuary to those in need.”

Clr Andrew Marchington, Golcar Lib Dem, said they should “welcome” people fleeing oppression while his party leader Clr Kath Pinnock said: “For the sake of humanity we should not allow people to be destitute.”

Clr Christine Smith, Kirkburton Conservative, said they would not support the motion as: “We have got to get our priorities right. We are talking about asylum seekers who have had their case looked at in great detail.

“The Coalition policy is not one of destitution and nobody denies compassion.”

Clr David Hall, Conservative deputy leader, said he and his wife supported an asylum seeker from Sierra Leone and remained friends with her, adding: “However, in any credible immigration system there has to become a point where an asylum seeker has been rejected or granted asylum.

“In the eyes of the law you are either granted leave to stay or you are no longer an asylum seeker.”

Clr David Sheard, deputy leader, replied: “If you accept that people have a right to appeal, their case is not complete.”

Clr Molly Walton, Crosland Moor and Netherton Labour, said: “The minute we deny humanity to folk in other circumstances is the minute we deny our own humanity.”

The motion was carried and means the council will write to the Immigration Minister urging a change in policy.

City of Sanctuary: Two more cities join the anti-destitution campaign. On 15 January 2014 and 21 January 2014, Kirklees City Council and Swansea City Council respectively passed motions against the destitution of asylum seekers. We congratulate both cities. The motions are strongly worded and resolve to join Still Human Still Here. A total of nine Councils have now passed motions on destitution. Leicester City have tabled this motion next month, so hopefully this will make it ten.

For a framework motion which can be tailored to local situations or further information, see our pages ondestitution or contact Mike Kaye of Still Human Still

Barry Sheerman has tabled a motion in Parliament (EDM No.905) which raises concerns that support rates under section 4 and section 95 are often not sufficient to cover essential medical, food and transport costs and urges the Government to raise these support rates to a minimum of £45.44 per person per week and supports a move towards cash methods for distributing support payments. The motion has cross party support and can be accessed at: if you are in contact with your MP please ask them to support this motion.