Community Integration (Peterborough)

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Office – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 31st January 2005.

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Photo of Ms Helen Clark Ms Helen Clark Labour, Peterborough 2:30 pm, 31st January 2005

If he will make a statement on the integration of asylum seekers and economic migrants in Peterborough.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

I acknowledge that there have been some difficulties in Peterborough with the integration of asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers. However, community relations there are improving, as I saw when I visited Peterborough on 15 December to see how the Government's investment of just over £1.5 million in a £2.2 million programme of nine projects in Peterborough was working. The projects aim to join statutory and voluntary agencies to provide more cost-effective services for the benefit of the whole community, including asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers.

Photo of Ms Helen Clark Ms Helen Clark Labour, Peterborough

Does the Minister agree that, instead of being an asylum hot spot, Peterborough has recently become a model for managing and controlling immigration properly? We have been greatly assisted by local employers such as Peter Boizot, the owner of the Great Northern hotel, who welcome these additions to the work force, and by the splendid New Link centre, which is funded by this Labour Government and provides vital help and support to all our new arrivals to Peterborough.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

When I visited Peterborough on 15 December, it was clear to me that the council and others who were represented at an interesting meeting were proud of the way in which Peterborough had integrated asylum seekers, refugees and, indeed, migrant workers. There are many good examples of the benefits that migration can bring our communities in Peterborough. It is unfortunate that some of the circumstances there have been so badly misrepresented and that that has done so much damage to the community, but people are working together and moving in the right direction.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

I understand that quite a large number of failed asylum seekers now reside in the Peterborough area. Has the Minister any idea how many there are and what plans has he to remove them?

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

The hon. Gentleman has raised an important issue. The removal of failed asylum seekers is a priority for me, as Minister with that responsibility, and for the Government. That is why I am pleased to be able to announce that, since 1997, we have been able to double the number of failed asylum seekers whom we have been able to remove from the country and that, because of steps we have taken—including changes in the law, for instance in the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004—we are confident that we shall be able to increase the number further.

I am sorry that I cannot help the hon. Gentleman with the specifics of his question. The community in Peterborough did not know exactly how many failed asylum seekers there were. I acknowledged that this was an issue during our discussions, however, and we are working with the community to deal with it.