York gives refuge to displaced asylum seekers

York is preparing to offer a safe refuge to up to 90 asylum seekers affected by movement restrictions due to Covid-19.

The asylum seekers are to be given refuge in York immediately, whilst decisions on each individual’s claim for asylum are processed by the Home Office. The Government is funding hotel accommodation for them together with support from specialist services, until they are able to move forward.

Asylum seekers presenting in the UK are placed in initial accommodation centres. Depending on their early assessments, they are then provided temporary accommodation while they await a decision on their claim for asylum. In March the Government committed not to move existing asylum seekers, and so appropriate temporary accommodation has been sought by the Home Office and Mears Group, with the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) requested to provide health services as required.

York is one of many cities across Yorkshire and the North East to accommodate asylum seekers for at least three months, depending on the impact of Covid-19. Up to 90 people will be given temporary accommodation, a number have already arrived and are being supported.

Having been informed by the Home Office and Mears Group that accommodation will be provided in York, there is no financial cost to the council for the services or accommodation. The Council will coordinate additional support through the voluntary sector.

Mears Group, the Government’s agency which is supporting the asylum seekers, is working alongside voluntary groups, health services and Migration Yorkshire to provide them with additional support. The council’s Public Health services and NHS services are helping with infection control in regard to Covid-19, and providing access to information on wellbeing and mental health. North Yorkshire Police are providing support too.

Detective Superintendent Allan Harder, Head of Safeguarding at North Yorkshire Police, said: “Offering sanctuary and protection to displaced people who have nothing and are facing an uncertain future is indicative of the caring and welcoming nature of York and its people.”

Paul Wordsworth, Co-ordinator of York City of Sanctuary said: “We will be welcoming and offering support to asylum seekers who are arriving in the city. We want to ensure that they will be safe and secure in the hospitality provided during their stay in York.”

Carrie Wheater, Manager of Refugee Action York (RAY), said: “RAY has a long history of working with asylum seekers and refugees in York and supporting them to become part of the York community. We are very pleased to be working with organisations to support these asylum seekers who have come to the UK seeking a place of safety, and we will do all that we can to support them while they are here.”

Cllr Denise Craghill, Executive Member for Housing and Safer Neighbourhoods, said: “I am glad that York is able to offer a refuge for these asylum seekers at this time of additional disruption and uncertainty. Many asylum seekers have been through extremely difficult experiences prior to seeking asylum. As a City of Sanctuary since 2015, we are offering them support at this time when the need for security and human compassion is especially important.

“2020 is a challenging time for so many. I am proud that York is also able to step up to this challenge. Our thanks go to all partners involved in providing the accommodation and on-going support.”

Refugee Action York and Yorkshire Aid are collecting clothing and donations for the arrivals. Please email info@refugeeactionyork.com or hello@yorkshireaid.org to arrange for garment donations and please go to https://www.justgiving.com/refugeeactionyork to donate money.