The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Refugee crisis in Manchester

Reports show Manchester is doing the most to resettle refugees. However many students and public officials are demanding more is done to help those in need

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As the global refugee crisis unfolds, reports show that Greater Manchester is doing more to house and care for asylum seekers than other region in the UK.

The Manchester Evening News recently published a series of reports based on Home Office data showing that the North West region takes approximately one in six of all asylum seekers in the UK.

According to the MEN some 4000 asylum seekers are now being processed in the Greater Manchester area, with over 100 asylum seekers currently housed in cheap hotels around the Manchester area for lack of suitable housing.

The report shows Rochdale and Bolton alone taking a combined figure of 2024 refugees, a figure far exceeding the 1617 refugees taken by London and the rest of the South East.

Reaction to this news has been varied. Many have criticised the unequal distribution, claiming that wealthier areas of the country should do more to house those in need.

The Labour MP for Rochdale, Simon Danczuk, said the report highlights that the North West is taking a “disproportionately high number,” claiming that other regions of the country were “not pulling their weight.”

Interim Mayor of Greater Manchester Tony Lloyd has also condemned the government’s “spectacular inability” to settle refugees and asylum seekers proportionately across the UK.

However, Labour MP for Manchester Central Lucy Powell has welcomed the news stating that she thinks there is a “moral obligation” to do more for refugees and that in her view the “vast majority of Mancunians would welcome playing their part.”

The report comes as the Prime Minister announced earlier this month that the UK would take a further 20000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. Cameron’s position contrasts strongly with Germany, where some 20000 refugees have been granted asylum over one weekend this month.

The Guardian reports around 340000 asylum seekers have arrived in the EU so far in 2015. Syrian refugees fleeing the disastrous civil war are by far the largest contingent of refugees crossing into Europe. However, only 5000 Syrian asylum seekers have been granted legal asylum in the UK since 2011, with just over 200 Syrian refugees being granted asylum so far this year.

Popular support for refugee rights movements and rehousing projects have been widespread in Manchester. On the 12th of September hundreds of people rallied in frustration at Cameron’s proposal to take 20000 refugees over five years. Manchester also saw massive counter-demonstrations against far right, anti-immigration, anti-refugee groups including The Far Right Infidels and Combat 18 this August.

Sir Gerald Kaufman, Labour MP for Manchester Gorton and the longest-serving current MP, told the House of Commons that if MPs didn’t let more refugees in now they would “live to regret it” for the rest of their lives.

The leader of Oldham council has also condemned Cameron’s stance as “shameful and embarrassing.”

Many students angered by the government’s weak response to the crisis have taken matters into their own hands signing on to Student Action for Refugees (STAR).

Emily Crowley, Deputy Director of Student Action for Refugees told The Mancunion: “The world is facing the biggest refugee crisis since World War II and the UK government is simply not doing enough.

“If you want to make sure the UK welcomes refugees take action with STAR to campaign for increased resettlement of Syrians and safe routes to the UK for refugees. You can also provide a welcome for refugees in your local community by volunteering with STAR to teach English and much more. Together we can get the message out, Refugees Welcome Here!”

Michael Spence, Education Secretary at the University of Manchester Students’ Union told The Mancunion that the government’s response was “pathetic.

“We have a duty to take in far, far more; especially considering Britain had a hand in creating the crisis by constant interventions in the Middle East. Students should do everything to lobby MPs and the government to support taking in more refugees.”