APPEALS for compassion have been made after a decision by the Home Office to house a group of asylum seekers in Rugby sparked a social media backlash from some residents.
Rugby Borough Council (RBC) announced the asylum seekers would stay in Rugby while their status as refugees is assessed – and criticised the Home Office for taking the decision without consulting the council.
Details about the arrangement remain confidential, but the council confirmed the asylum seekers will stay in private accommodation not council homes, and the Home Office will meet all costs.
The Chair of Rugby homelessness charity Hope4, which was formed by a group of local churches, called on the community to ‘embrace all who come to call Rugby home’.
Diana Mansell said: “At the heart of the Christian message there is a desire for us to care for those who are on the margins of society – the widows, orphans, foreigners, the homeless, the hungry, the refugee.
“I am sure that we along with all those in Rugby will embrace those who have risked their very lives to flee from horrors we have never had to endure. Many have been separated from or lost loved ones along the way.
“Over the last year and a half we, as a community, have been attuned to the heartache of separation and bereavement. Everyone in Rugby has been incredibly compassionate throughout the pandemic. I hope this spirit of caring for our community will continue.
“If Hope4 can assist those coming here in any way, we will welcome the opportunity to do so.”
Pete McLaren, secretary of Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, said every town should welcome asylum seekers while their applications are being heard.
He said: “Asylum seekers are desperate, having travelled hundreds of miles in often dangerous conditions to arrive where they feel safe. They have fled war, persecution or extreme poverty.
“We have never understood why people demonise asylum seekers. They are human beings. Like all immigrants, they will be a net economic gain to the communities they move into, including Rugby.”
An RBC spokesman said the council was ‘unhappy’ the decision had been made ‘without the benefit of local knowledge and experience’.
He said: “We ask the Home Office to decide these applications quickly and fairly. In the meantime the Home Office must ensure they provide adequate support to these individuals, and take responsibility for their welfare, and the welfare of any communities that are affected by this decision.
“It is in everyone’s interests that anyone placed in our borough, whatever their background, is given appropriate accommodation and support.
“We are working with the Home Office and their contractors, Serco, to try to address the concerns we have at some of the arrangements.”
A Government spokesperson said: “Additional temporary contingency accommodation is being used to house asylum seekers in safe and secure accommodation. While we always aim to keep local authorities informed, in some circumstances accommodation has to be deployed at short notice in order to meet our statutory legal obligations.”