THE MP for Portsmouth South has written to the Home Office asking for clarification about how asylum seekers are distributed to local authorities.
Flick Drummond wrote the letter to Minister of State James Brokenshire, following a Conservative proposal passed by Portsmouth City Council.
I hope that any debate that takes place in future locally can be based on sound figuresPortsmouth South MP Flick Drummond
It will see the authority write to home secretary Theresa May requesting Portsmouth be removed as a ‘cluster area’ taking in asylum families.
But in the letter Mrs Drummond said it’s not clear what the rules are.
‘As the issue of Syrian refugees has become entangled in the local debate with the wider issue of distributing asylum seekers, some guidance from you on how they will be distributed between local authorities would be much appreciated,’ she said.
‘I welcome the support the UK government is giving to refugees from the Syrian crisis, and I am proud that in Portsmouth our people have always given a welcome and a home to people from all over the world.
‘We are a great, outward-looking port city.
‘I hope that any debate that takes place in future locally can be based on sound figures and calm reasoning, and hope that you might be able to help me promote that.’
At the moment, there are 124 people seeking asylum in Portsmouth.
The debate centred over the issue of school places in the city, which are under a lot of pressure, although none of the refugees go to local schools. Children’s services, social care and housing are also an issue, the council leader Councillor Donna Jones said.
Chairman of Portsmouth-based group Friends Without Borders Michael Woolley said he was disappointed.
‘The council is going to try and opt out of the dispersal towns but the Home Office is unlikely to agree as it has contracts with private landlords and it would set a precedent for cities like Liverpool which has 1,369 asylum seekers,’ he said.
‘It’s a mean and ill-considered decision which wouldn’t save any school places, but might indeed increase pressure on them,’ he said.
‘It sends an unfortunate message to people who have already suffered a lot and whom we should be trying to help.
‘The council should be ashamed.’
Portsmouth Cathedral accused the city council of being narrow-minded over the decision.