Local politicians of an English borough have expressed their concern about the sustainability of a Home Office order to double its intake of asylum seekers to help the British government cope with the record arrivals into the country.
Members of the Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, representing two towns in the northwest of England, were recently informed that the number of asylum seekers to be housed in the borough will more than double, rising from 370 to 750 people.
The Home Office justified the decision by explaining that the number of asylum seekers had “reached record levels” and “appropriate accommodation” was needed. However, council leader Phil Riley maintained that placements across the country were still “not being done equitably.”
According to the BBC, the leader of the Labour-led council told its executive board that the rise in numbers was a “consequence of the government losing control of the asylum process, including the hundreds crossing the English Channel every day.”
Migrant channel crossings for the year have now well exceeded 40,000, far surpassing last year’s record of 28,526.
The latest weekly Home Office data available for Nov. 28 to Dec. 5 showed 1,902 new arrivals were detected by border officials on 37 boats.
While council leader Phil Riley told executives that all local authorities were “being told they had to take in more asylum seekers,” and maintained that Blackburn would continue its “long and honorable record of welcoming” new arrivals, he believed the quota system was “not being done equitably.”
Riley’s concern was reportedly supported by the opposing Conservative group leader, John Slater, who struggled to see the fairness behind increasing numbers in the borough “except for Ukrainians” fleeing the Russian invasion.
Both local MPs on differing sides of the floor, Labour’s Kate Hollern and Conservative Jake Berry, also expressed their dismay at the Home Office’s decision to “re-evaluate” the borough’s quota.
Hollen told the BBC that while the borough was experiencing a shortage of doctors, dentists, school places, and accommodation, it was “simply impractical to place an outsized burden on areas and their services.”
Berry echoed her sentiment, telling the public broadcaster that when local public services were already stretched thin, it was not fair “to put even more pressure on them by doubling the number of asylum seekers.”
The Home Office responded to the concerns by stating it was “working hard with local authorities to find appropriate accommodation,” indicating that the availability of suitable accommodation in the area had not been factored into its decision to more than double the number of arrivals into the borough.