Shaid Naqvi, The Birmingham Post, ic Brimingham, May 10
The number of refugees and asylum seekers living in Birmingham is likely to be three times higher than official Government figures show, a major new report has found.
The nine-month study, carried out by Birmingham University, found there was likely to be nearer to 35,000 living in the area rather than the just 12,000 official statistics say.
The research, which was carried out last year, also found worrying rates of unemployment within the groups.
Last night, Sutton Coldfield’s Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell branded the Govern-ment’s asylum policy “a shambles” in light of the findings.
But the Learning and Skills Council, which commissioned the university to carry out the first in-depth survey into the city’s refugee and asylum population, claimed it demonstrated a need for better support structures to be put in place.
Anecdotal evidence pointed to a huge number of “hidden homeless” living outside the system.
Official figures, based on new arrivals registered with various support agencies, suggest there were 8,250 asylum seekers living in Birmingham and 126 in Solihull at the end of 2003 with a further 3,881 refugees in both areas. But that figure triples when the “hidden homeless” are added — people with no permanent address who exist outside the benefit system and live with friends and relatives.
The LSC report, entitled A Review of Support Services for Refugees, concludes: “Consideration of Home Office and other data suggests that there are many more refugees than asylum seekers living in the Birmingham and Solihull and the overall population size is likely to be somewhere around 35,000 by the end of 2003.”
The LSC study is the most wide-ranging review ever into the area’s refugees and asylum seekers.
It was launched to help gain a clearer understanding of their needs and the barriers they face.
Of those legally entitled to work nearly two-thirds were unemployed. Nearly half of those not currently working had never worked at all while 68 per cent had entered the UK with no proof of qualifications.
The study also graphically demonstrated the economic hurdles faced by those fleeing their home countries.
Of those in paid employment before entering the UK, only four per cent had managed to secure work in the region.
Lack of English language and poor housing were the biggest barriers faced…SUPL: