Refugees Turn Down Renovated Council Homes

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Byline: SARAH HARRIS

RENOVATED council homes are sitting empty after being rejected by asylum seekers, it emerged yesterday.

They remain vacant because refugees are reluctant to move from London where they believe they will get better jobs, accommodation and social life.

Local authorities in Birmingham and the West Midlands signed a deal with the Home Office to provide 1,760 homes for dispersed refugees this year.

Only half the expected numbers have been sent to the Black Country, Solihull and Coventry.

Birmingham, which offered to house 463 families, has received fewer than 100.

More than 100 Birmingham council houses which have been refurbished and put aside for asylum seekers are vacant.

Andrew Mitchell, Tory MP for Sutton Coldfield, said: 'This shows that there continues to be very serious problems with the Government's handling of asylum issues.' Gerald Howarth, Tory MP for Aldershot and member of the Commons home affairs select committee, said: 'Presumably there are homeless people in Birmingham who are being denied accommodation.

'If these people are genuine asylum seekers fleeing from persecution they would be grateful for whatever place in the United Kingdom they were allocated.' In a bid to solve the problem, information packs promoting the Midlands are being distributed to refugees waiting to be dispersed from London and the South East.

David Barnes, of the West Midlands Local Government Association, said: 'It is extremely difficult to encourage asylum seekers to disperse to the West Midlands and there is a particular problem with Birmingham.

'People do not want to move out of London where there are established refugee groups, job networks, and they can go to ground.

'To many, London is Great Britain. They think there is nothing outside the capital. …