Asylum Seekers in Woodbridge
The Government has awarded a contract to SERCO to provide safe and secure housing to families claiming asylum from persecution in their native or home countries. SERCO provides housing for them whilst their refugee status is determined; if they are granted refugee status they are then able to remain and work in the UK.
SERCO has been offered long-term accommodation in the redeveloped former Police Station in Woodbridge; 14 flats suitable for families, which may be single parent families, couples with children, or an older family group. SERCO will not know who will be arriving until a day or two before they arrive. The contract with SERCO starts and ends with housing; ongoing support is through charities such as Suffolk Refugee Support and Friends of Refugees Suffolk (FORS), both of which are already working with other asylum seekers across the County.
These families will have suffered trauma before their decision to leave their homeland, and also possibly en route to the UK. Their English may be limited, yet they may at one time have held important roles in their homeland. They are not permitted to seek employment whilst awaiting an outcome of their refugee application, and receive the sum of less than £38 per person per week for all household expenses. Determination of their status can take several years – if successful they then leave the SERCO accommodation and can enter the housing and employment market.
The Town Council is committed to providing help in supporting the incoming families. The role of the Town Council to date has been to facilitate the recruitment of additional Woodbridge-based volunteers for Suffolk Refugee Support, and to direct SERCO to other agencies who may help these families locally. Woodbridge benefits from having caring individuals within its community, and as a Town Council we are grateful for the work that they do for others, whatever their circumstances.
Serco have advised Woodbridge Town Council that they are unlikely to engage in a wider public briefing as they feel that the right thing to do is to work with key stakeholders at county, district and Town Council level and to include others as necessary.
Welfare support for asylum seekers is delivered through the Advice Issue Reporting & Eligibility (AIRE) contract which was awarded to Migrant Help, a national charity. The 24/7 AIRE helpline number is: 08088010503. Members of the public can also contact the Home Office or local government at County, District or Town council level for more general queries.