A Labour run council has been criticised in Parliament for “playing politics” with Syrian refugees, by planning to house them exclusively in a limited number of Conservative-voting suburban areas.
The new arrivals are expected as part of the Government’s programme to accept 20,000 migrants from Syria over the next five years. The leader of Derby’s labour council, Ranjit Banwait (pictured left), has revealed that they will be house only in suburban wards.
The three selected areas are also the city’s only conservative wards; eight other wards are represented only by Labour councillors, and another four represented by cross-party mix.
According to the Telegraph, Conservative MP for Mid Derbyshire, Pauline Latham (pictured right), said during a parliamentary session on Syrian refugees:
“Derby City Council are playing very silly political games, saying they are going to settle them in the Conservative wards, which is getting people exercised about this.”
Mr. Banwait has claimed that the conservative wards are being used to house the refugees because the Labour wards have already reached capacity.
However, Chris Poulter, the Conservative councillor for Spondon, said there was a shortage of accommodation in the Conservative areas too.
“At first Mr Banwait said he did not want any refugees in the city. It is not for him to decide where refugees should live,” said Mr Poulter.
“Council and rented properties in Spondon are at an absolute premium. There is a waiting list for people who want to live in them.
“It is extremely hard to imagine a significant number of properties becoming available at the drop of a hat.”
Frank Harwood, an Oakwood councillor, argued that the suburban nature of the areas would cause the migrants problems because of a shortage of public transport and other facilities.
A Derby City Council spokesman said: “The suggestion of placing refugees in the wider city area is in response to the heavy concentration of asylum seekers in the inner city.
“As yet we have not committed to being part of the Syrian vulnerable person relocation scheme.
“The suggestion is hypothetical.
He added: “We must however be mindful that as a dispersal city for asylum seekers we do not overreach our capacity.
“We must also work to ensure we support new arrivals to the city to integrate with the wider community of Derby.
“Any decision made to locate either asylum seekers or refugees across the city will be in the context of local capacity.”
Responding to the news that the refugees were coming to Conservative areas, local resident Darren Lee Loughenbury wrote on the Derbyshire Telegraph’s Facebook page:
“I’m sorry but while there are people on the streets in Derby and ex-service men on the streets, old people that carnt [sic] afford to put the heating on and people having to use food banks, I’m sorry but we should sort these out first.”
Nathan Jordan said: “Seeing as they are temporary refugees and will be going home like all the others who came over as temporary refugees, they should be put in temporary accommodation somewhere.”
Sarah Echelon Louise added: “I think its bloody disgusting. I’ve been a council tenant for 20 years and been trying to get a move back to my family in Mickleover the whole time.”