The move last week by immigration minister Beverley Hughes to
regionalise the National Asylum Support Service has been welcomed
by refugee campaigners who have been calling for the change since
Nass was set up in 1999.
Nass is to open 12 regional offices as bases for half its staff.
The government hopes the change will help the organisation be more
responsive to local issues in key areas such as social cohesion and
help to improve the dispersal process.
The regionalised functions will be housing contract management and
outreach staff, who will ensure that asylum seekers arrive safely
in the area and liaise with local staff to resolve problems.
The investigation into cases of abuse of the support system and the
reporting of antisocial behaviour by asylum seekers and racial
harassment will also be devolved.
Anna Reisenberger, director of development at the Refugee Council,
said the charity “very much” welcomed the move.
“It will enable Nass to work more closely with local services to
improve support for asylum seekers as well as improving the overall
management of the dispersal system,” she said.
Nadeem Ahmad, regional manager of the North East Consortium for
Asylum Support Services, said: “This is a positive step and it is
now up to us and our regional colleagues at Nass to develop better
understanding and knowledge.”
When Nass was established, the consortium had great difficulty
finding staff in the Croydon headquarters to resolve difficulties.
Under the new arrangements, there will be 40 to 50 Nass staff in
the region, “a major shift” compared with the beginning of the
year, Ahmad said.
Refugee Action also welcomed the move, but Southampton team manager
Kathy Bogan warned that the functions devolved to the regional
offices were limited. “It is a good move but let’s see how it works
in practice,” she said.
Bogan said that, because the regional Nass office covering
Southampton would be in Dover, the Refugee Action Southampton
office would be closer to Nass’s existing headquarters in Croydon.
But she acknowledged that, where the charity’s offices were located
near Nass’s new regional offices, such as Bristol or Liverpool,
working relationships were likely to improve.