Asylum charity appeals for Kirkheaton villagers to back night centre plan
A CHARITY worker has appealed to villagers to “show some humanity” over plans to open a night shelter for asylum seekers in Kirkheaton.
Last month Kirkheaton Parish Church vicar the Rev Richard Steel revealed he was hoping to use one the church’s abandoned buildings as a refuge.
But the proposal to house between two and 10 homeless failed asylum seekers between 8pm and 8am, five nights a week, caused controversy in the village.
The story saw more than 100 comments on the Examiner website with the majority saying they would oppose the plan.
Speaking ahead of a key community meeting on Tuesday, Dinah Beckett from national charity The Refugee Council, called for people to get their facts straight about why the move was necessary.
“This night shelter will be addressing the needs of the most vulnerable of the vulnerable,’’ she said.
“These places are remarkably uneventful – it’s just a safe place for people to lay their heads down.
“They don’t want to draw attention to themselves and they’ll generally go fairly unnoticed.
“There’s a lot of misinformation and fear is stirred up by the idea of these strangers, but they’re just ordinary people who’ve been through extraordinary circumstances that have led them to leave their country.”
Mrs Beckett, who manages a one-stop service for refugees in Leeds, said many failed asylum seekers had no means of support and no method of going home, leaving them homeless and penniless and in complete limbo.
She said: “People who have gone through the asylum system often end up homeless and it’s got nothing to do with whether they are genuine or not.
“The system has barriers and people can fall through loops.
“If you’re ill and you miss a deadline, that can send your whole case out of kilter.
“The process is quite quick and people can find they’ve only been here two months and then find they’ve been refused.
“Often they haven’t built up any contacts, they might not speak English and they don’t know anybody.
“They’re living in a new place and they’re not entitled to any social services.
“In Yorkshire there are a lot of people who aren’t receiving any support. Most will be sleeping on friend’s sofas and living within immigrant communities and you won’t even know they’re there.”
There were 17,790 asylum claims to the UK last year of which only 3,480 were given refugee status.
Mrs Beckett said it was a myth that the UK took more than its fair share of asylum seekers.
She added: “Internationally we take a very small proportion of asylum seekers. We take a lot less than France, Germany and a lot of other European countries.