Rugby council defends asylum seekers statement after some councillors brand it 'wide of the mark'

Some were concerned that the statement was critical of asylum seekers, but the council said the criticism was aimed solely at the Home Office

Thursday, 5th August 2021, 1:04 pm
Updated Thursday, 5th August 2021, 1:06 pm
Rugby Town Hall.

Rugby council has defended the wording of its initial statement on asylum seekers arriving in Rugby after the council's Labour group said it did not make it clear that asylum seekers were welcome in the town.

On July 29 Rugby Borough Council council issued a statement to announce that the Home Office had decided that a group of asylum seekers were to be brought to the town, where they would stay while their applications were considered.

The asylum seekers were brought to stay in a private venue in borough through an arrangement made between the Home Office and the owners of the venue.

Some said they were concerned that the council's statement appeared to be critical of the asylum seekers.

The council's statement in full was: "The Home Office has notified Rugby Borough Council that from today (29 July) asylum seekers are to be housed in Rugby while their status as refugees is assessed.

"We were not consulted on this decision.

"We ask the Home Office to decide these applications for refugee status quickly and fairly.

"In the meantime the Home Office must ensure that they provide adequate support to these individuals to allow them to integrate and adjust to life in their new communities."

The wording of the statement prompted concern in some, who viewed it as being critical of asylum seekers.

At the time, Pete McLaren of Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) said: "Whether or not the Home Office should have consulted Rugby Council before suggesting Rugby should accommodate a small number of asylum seekers is irrelevant: every village, town and city should welcome asylum seekers whilst their applications are being heard.

"We have never understood why much of the media, sections of the Government and, sadly, some people demonise asylum seekers."

The next day, July 30, the Advertiser put those concerns to the council, and a spokesperson said asylum seekers are welcome in the town, clarifying that its frustration expressed in a previous statement was directed solely at the Home Office for not consulting the authority prior to the decision.

And yesterday, August 4, Rugby's Labour group told the Advertiser that they believe the statement was 'wide of the mark', adding that they have raised those concerns with the council leadership.

They said: "Rugby has always prided itself on being a welcoming and harmonious place to live, work and play.

"In this spirit, we felt that the statement by the council was wide of the mark in terms of making clear that we welcome everybody who comes here.

"We have raised our concerns with the council leadership about this and feel that, as we have seen over the last 18 months, people will continue to come together as a community."

Responding to Labour's statement, a spokesman for Rugby Borough Council said: “Our statement conveyed our view that asylum seekers should be properly supported and that the arrangements made for them by the Home Office should be appropriate to their needs.

"We remain committed to working with the Home Office, Serco and other partners to ensure that the arrangements for asylum seekers who are placed in our borough are appropriate.”