We are honoured to be a recognised City of Sanctuary; part of a network of towns and cities throughout the country that are proud to be places of safety, and which include people seeking sanctuary fully in the lives of their communities.
The roles of national and local government
National government determines immigration status and whether or not an asylum seeker is accepted. This is under the control of the Home Office and the UK Visas and Immigration department who decide who can legally reside in the UK.
The Home Office is responsible for managing the dispersal, accommodation and support needs of asylum seekers while a decision on the asylum claim is made. The Home Office operate a number of regional contracts to facilitate this. In the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber this contract is held by G4S, who subcontract this work in the North East to a private housing provider called Jomast.
The Local Authority is not responsible for placing or accommodating asylum seekers. Our role is in liaison with these private contractors to try and ensure that they can respond to local circumstances and to then manage the move on arrangements when people are granted refugee status.
What Newcastle currently does to support asylum seekers and refugees
In 2014 Newcastle was officially recognised as a 'City of Sanctuary', the certificate is displayed in the City Library. This was in recognition of the city's commitment to welcoming and supporting asylum seekers and refugees this includes aligning housing, education and health services. Specific examples of this are:
- Your Homes Newcastle's Advice and Support Workers to support refugee move on
- The Kaleidoscope project provides educational psychology support to help integrate children of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants to education
- The Health Improvement Service for Ethnic Minorities project provides health advice and facilitates access to health provision
- A number of voluntary sector organisations that provide support to asylum seekers and refugees like: West End Refugee Service, Action Foundation, the Red Cross and the North of England Refugee Service.
The Asylum Accommodation Standards Policy 2017
The Asylum Accommodation Standards Policy 2017, adopted by Newcastle City Council on 20 March 2017 outlines the factors that will be considered when assessing the suitability of a property to accommodate dispersed asylum seekers. The Home Office set out in the COMPASS Contract that providers are expected to comply with the contractual standard of accommodation, and with the standards and licensing rules expected of all private sector housing providers within the local authority area. We are working with both the prime COMPASS contractor and their sub-contractor to ensure compliance with all housing legislation, and local housing standards. Any breaches of this policy will be investigated on a case-by-case basis, and action taken in accordance with the council's Enforcement Concordat.