Back to dispersal after deal cut short

Portsmouth Council is expected to take over from Southampton as
leader of the south east consortium of local authorities looking
after asylum seekers, it has been revealed.

The change comes after the National Asylum Support Service used a
break clause to bring a premature end to Southampton Council’s
five-year contract to house asylum seekers.

Around 275 asylum seekers living in Southampton are being moved to
accommodation in other parts of England, although it is not yet
known exactly where.

Nass had wanted the contract to finish in July, but decided to
extend it to 10 September.

John Beer, director of social services at Southampton, said that
the extension was granted so the asylum seekers’ futures could be
sorted out as much as possible.

The Home Office’s decision to cut back on accommodation follows a
sharp fall in asylum applications.

Government figures show that the number of people applying for
asylum in the UK fell from 22,760 in the last quarter of 2002 to
8,940 in the first quarter of 2004.

Last month the Home Office admitted that a significant number of
homes earmarked for asylum seekers were empty but still being paid
for by taxpayers.

There are thought to be 25,000 empty homes costing more than
£100m a year.

Only a handful of the government’s contracts with councils are
believed to have break clauses allowing Nass to stop payments for
empty properties early. The remaining five-year contracts are due
to finish in 2005.

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