Deal averts threat of doubling asylum seeker numbers in Blackburn
A DEAL averting the threat of the number of asylum seekers coming to Blackburn and Darwen doubling has been struck after months of talks.
Council chiefs and Blackburn MPJack Straw were alarmed that the total of refugees sent to the borough could rise from 350 to 700 by the end of the year putting ‘intolerable strain’ on social cohesion and public services.
The fears were provoked by a change in the management of the system which gave responsibility for resettling asylum seekers in the town to private company SERCO, instead of the borough council.
This could have allowed the firm to bring up to a legal maximum of 700 into the town, instead of the current 350.
As the Lancashire Telegraph reported in June, Mr Straw was sufficiently alarmed to write to Home Secretary Theresa May on the issue. Now he, the council, SERCO and the Home Office have reached ‘an understanding’ that the numbers will not rise without the borough and Mrs May approving any rise.
The giant company has also agreed to consult the council on where asylum seekers are placed, and ensure that new refugees only come to the borough when previous ones leave.
One source close to the talks said although it failed to alter the legal maximum, it was a binding ‘gentlemen’s agreement’.
A report to the full council forum tomorrow says: “SERCO has commenced procuring properties in the private rented sector to house the asylum seekers.
“This process is subject to stringent checks by the council to ensure that the locations are acceptable and that the overall number of asylum seekers is not increased.”
Mr Straw said: “We have reached an understanding that SERCO will not increase the numbers of asylum seekers coming to Blackburn without the council and the Home Secretary’s approval. The council will also have a say in where they go.
“I am satisfied that the arrangement is adequate.
“Everyone has agreed that the total in Blackburn with Darwen will not go above the 350 we have at the moment. That is the reality of the new deal.”
A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: “Any proposal by accommodation providers to introduce more asylum seekers into an area would have to be agreed by us.
“This would clearly involve discussions with local councils and other agencies to ensure community safety and the impact on the area is taken into account.”
A mother has spoken of her ‘disgust’ after her 15-year-old daughter was robbed at knife point in a Preston park.
At around 5.30pm on Sunday afternoon two 15-year-old girls were walking across Grange Park in Ribbleton when they were apprehended by two males dressed in black.
The two males demanded mobile phones from the two girls.
One of the offenders, who is described as having a ‘squeeky voice’ then grabbed one of the girls by the neck and put his hand over her mouth to prevent her from screaming.
He then searched the teenager whilst the second male stood there holding a knife.
The first man then found her mobile phone located in her bra.
The second girl threw her phone on the ground and the girls ran home to call the police.
The girls had been walking from the Grange estate to Moor Nook.
The mother of one of the girls, who didn’t want to be named, described what happened as “disgusting.”
She said: “They both ran in and said ‘quick phone the police, I’ve been robbed with a knife’. I just felt sick.
“It just makes me sick that people think they can go around with knives intimidating young girls.”
The ordeal has left the two teenage girls shaken up.
However the mother said she that she wasn’t shocked because the girl had had her phone robbed a few months earlier by a man who put her in a head lock on Gamull Lane.
She added: “I just hope that people might read it and have a conscience.”
Det Sgt John Crichton, of Preston CID, said: It is a shame that two 15-year-olds can’t walk from one street to the other.
“It was very frightening from them.”
Det Sgt Crichton said that the two males were dressed all in black and wearing balaclavas.
The male who grabbed the girl around the neck been described as having dark skin, a squeeky voice, being of a slim build and around 5ft 2 inches tall.
The one holding the knife has been described as 5ft 4 inches and of normal build.
Both of the girls had Blackberry mobile phones.
The phone that was thrown on the floor was later recovered.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Preston CID by calling 101 or alternatively, information can be passed to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Nwi, Nei, Cxf, Nf, Bnp, Edl, Sdl and Casuals will be uniting on a march through Liverpool City Centre on Saturdayto show our disgust at the events that took place on the 13th October when IRA sympathisers were once again allowed the freedom to march through Liverpool. March will start at 7PM
ALL ORGS WELCOME ALSO ALL FLAGS AND BANNERS WELCOME