Shutting door on asylum seekers ‘spits in the face of people in Portsmouth’

Gerald Vernon-Jackson and Jon Woods protest in Guildhall Square yesterday
Gerald Vernon-Jackson and Jon Woods protest in Guildhall Square yesterday
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  • Lib Dem says shame has been brought on city following controversial vote to lobby Theresa May
  • But Tory council boss says authority faces ‘crisis’ trying to support local people
  • Labour councillor says he’s ‘ashamed to be British’ following action
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SHAME has been brought on Portsmouth and the city council has let down everyone who has shown their support for asylum-seekers.

That’s the accusation from campaigners as an agreement was made to push ahead with plans to shut the door on asylum-seekers coming to the city.

All of those people who went out of their way to help – they have been spat on by the council.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Portsmouth Lib Dem leader

Controversial plans for a letter to be sent to home secretary Theresa May, demanding the city not be considered as an area that takes in families fleeing war-torn countries, was passed at a full council debate last night.

Twenty-one councillors from the Conservative and Ukip groups voted in favour of the action being taken and 16 members from Labour and the Lib Dems opposed.

The vote came despite activists gathering in Guildhall Square earlier in the day to demand that the council showed unanimous support for asylum-seekers.

Meanwhile a handful of anti-asylum seekers gathered on the balcony of the civic offices with a banner (see page one).

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem leader, walked out following the vote.

Speaking to The News, he said: ‘It brings shame on our city, completely.

‘All of those people who went out of their way to help – they have been spat on by the council. To say their help and contribution to supporting and helping children fleeing from war means nothing shows that we are a heartless city and won’t look after the 120 refugees that are here.’

Cllr Aiden Gray, deputy Labour leader, said it made him ‘ashamed to be British’ and warned Portsmouth’s decision would make the city a ‘laughing stock’.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Friends Without Borders show Portsmouth only houses 124 refugees in a city with a population of 210,000. Eighteen of those are children, but none of them go to schools in the city.

Yet Tory leader Donna Jones warned the city faced a ‘crisis’ keeping local services afloat. She said: ‘This is not being uncompassionate. We inherited a 1,069 primary school places shortage. We are overdeveloping our school sites because we are facing a crisis.’

British Red Cross and Stand Up To Racism officials had pleaded with the council to reconsider.

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