Report highlights Rotherham asylum numbers

A GOVERNMENT report has noted how asylum seeker numbers in Rotherham last year were higher than in Leeds.

A report released by the National Audit Office on Friday highlighted how security firm G4S has been urged by the Home Office to “reduce the numbers accommodated in Rotherham to a more sustainable level”.

Rotherham Borough Council said this week the report referred to the situation last summer, while G4S insisted numbers would “return to normal levels within a few months”.

The Advertiser reported last July that Rotherham Borough Council chief executive Martin Kimber had complained to Government that Rotherham was being sent too many asylum seekers.

The NAO report, issued on Friday, said councils were “concerned about ‘parity’ — they wish to maintain the population of asylum seekers in individual towns or local wards in proportion to the overall population of that area, in order to maintain community cohesion”.

It continued: “During transition (to new contracts in 2012), G4S was permitted to accommodate additional service users in Rotherham, where there was more availability of housing, on a temporary basis.

“However, the local authority is concerned that G4S has continued to do this since the contract became operational, as the town currently has the highest number of asylum seekers in the region, including higher numbers than in Leeds.

“The Home Office has asked G4S to reduce the numbers in Rotherham to a more sustainable level.”

Mr Kimber wrote to the Home Office last summer asking them to ensure people seeking asylum were “distributed in an appropriate and equitable manner.”

It came after the number of asylum seekers in Rotherham — people seeking refuge in the UK, fleeing persecution, or torture — increased from 334 in August 2012 to 450 in March 2013.

Dave Richmond, the council’s director of housing, said the NAO report referred to the situation last summer.

He added: “This highlighted the point, that while asylum seeker numbers locally were not high in historical terms, the authority had concerns regarding a perceived unequal distribution of asylum seekers across region.

“Both the Home Office and G4S understood Rotherham’s concerns and gave undertakings to reduce numbers locally over time.

“This commitment is being closely monitored by the council and it is expected that there will be a continuous reduction in the number of ayslum seekers in the borough over the next few months.”