Town to become asylum seeker centre

By Ted JeoryBRITAIN'S oldest recorded town is set to be one of the new centres for an influx of 800 asylum seekers.Colchester is one of six locations that have chosen by the East of England Regional Assembly to become special dispersal areas for asylum seekers.

By Ted Jeory

BRITAIN'S oldest recorded town is set to be one of the new centres for an influx of 800 asylum seekers.

Colchester is one of six locations that have chosen by the East of England Regional Assembly to become special dispersal areas for asylum seekers.

Ipswich, Norwich and Peterborough and Ipswich currently used as official centres, but now assembly officials - made up of elected members from across the region - have recommended to the Home Office that Colchester, Cambridge and Bedford are also used.


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The assembly's asylum and refugee panel have agreed that Colchester should house up to 130 asylum seekers, many of whom are expected to arrive in July next year after a period of consultation.

Nigel Chapman, Colchester Borough Council's cabinet member with responsibility for asylum seekers, said he was in favour of the move, subject to receiving funding.

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"We're a grown-up town and we have a long and proud record of welcoming newcomers. We supported the 18th century Dutch asylum seekers and we have the Dutch Quarter to prove it," he said.

"As long as we receive the funding for the private rented accommodation that they will use, then I think it will be a good thing. From other towns' experiences, having asylum seekers can actually have beneficial spin-offs for the quality of rental housing."

If the recommendation gets the go-ahead, the dispersal scheme - run by the Home Office's National Asylum Support Service - will last for five years.

Appropriate support services with organisations, including the Refugee Council and the Citizens Advice Bureau, to help asylum seekers integrate into the area will also be provided.

But they will not be eligible for benefits or social housing while their applications for asylum are being considered.

There are currently about 2,600 asylum seekers in the east of England, less than 3% of the 5.5million population.

The 800 asylum seekers predicted to be dispersed for the region is just 2% of the total planned for the whole of the UK - the lowest proportion of any region except Northern Island.

ted.jeory@eadt.co.uk

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