A year ago I noted that despite all the virtue signalling the record of Hammersmith and Fulham Council when it comes to providing sanctuary to Syrian refugees was derisory.
At that time the total we had taken under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme was only three. Now, according to the latest official figures, it has risen to ten.
By contrast these are the numbers for some other London boroughs.
Barnet – 40.
Brent – 18.
Camden – 75.
Hackney – 24.
Kingston – 27.
Lambeth – 70.
Lewisham – 32.
Newham – 61
Richmond – 12.
It’s true that some other councils haven’t taken any. But the particular issue with Hammersmith and Fulham is the hypocrisy. All the boastfulness and publicity seeking about how caring they are. Yet many other councils – Labour and Conservative – that didn’t issue press releases have quietly got on with doing much more.
The latest Asylum data stats (see volume four) show that Hammersmith and Fulham Council took no further Refugees under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme in the last quarter.
So the total is still three.
Barnet has taken 37, Camden 71, Islington, 25, Richmond upon Thames, 12. Even the tiny City of London has taken seven.
I had already challenged H&F Council’s poor record when matched up to its rhetoric. I have been very disappointed that the H&F Refugees Welcome Committee, really a branch of London Citizens, has (so far) been completely uncritical of the Council’s failure. They provide an excuse and an alibi for their hypocrisy.
This is the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement is for 20,000 refugees nationally – which the Council attacked at the time it was announced for not going far enough.
Then there is the Dubs scheme. That is far more dubious as it is gives an incentive for people smuggling. That is because the Dubs scheme takes children from Europe (very often resulting in drowning in the Mediterranean) rather than the camps in Lebanon and Jordan. Others feel that despite this it is right to participate. But a recent FOI request I put in shows that the Council record is pretty feeble whatever you think of the merits of it. the Council has taken in 13 and is only offering to take in two more despite the substantial funding on offer from central Government. Of the 13 only one is in the borough – the other have been placed by the Council elsewhere.
Furthermore so far as unaccompanied asylum seeking children more generally is concerned the Council is failing to meet its quota:
“The number of UASC (non DUBS amendment) children being looked after is currently below the 0.07% figure. The 0.07% figure for Hammersmith and Fulham is 24 children.”
The upshot is that the Council is still virtue signalling. It is still putting the focus on getting publicity in the media about how caring it is – while hoping that the reality of its record will pass unnoticed.
In August the Hammersmith and Fulham Council leader Cllr Stephen Cowan went on a publicity seeking visit to the Calais Jungle.
With the Labour leadership contest under way at the time he felt it was an appropriate opportunity to boost Owen Smith’s campaign with a swipe at Jeremy Corbyn. He said:
“Yes, I’m attacking Corbyn – it’s not coming from the frontbench of the main parties and it should be.”
But soon he warmed to his more familiar theme – telling us what a caring and moral person he is and how uncaring and immoral the Conservatives are. Cowan declared:
“This is a crisis. I don’t think we can walk by on the other side of the street. There’s a moral imperative that we act. We want to do more than our bit. We can’t look the other way.”
Once the camera’s stopped rolling the facts began to emerge.
The Council has only agreed to take ten unaccompanied children. Even then terms and conditions apply. Central Government must pay the full costs. The children won’t be placed in the borough – simply managed by the Council’s social workers. So far as the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme is concerned the Council has only taken three people. That is over a year after it attacked the Government’s national total of 20,000 over five years for being too low.
The Council has not yet written to residents inviting them to offer accommodation. It hasn’t even put a link to this document from the Hammersmith & Fulham Refugees Welcome committee on its website. That document gives practical advice. The Council just keeps putting out boastful press releases.
So the reality is that the Council is walking by on the other side. It is not doing it’s bit – let alone more than its bit. It is looking the other way.
Will Cowan apologise for such staggering cynicism? Don’t hold your breath.
Recently it was confirmed to me that three Syrian refugees have settled in Kensington and Chelsea. This is under the Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement programme which aims to find room for 20,000 Syrian refugees in this country by 2020. Central Government funds the scheme from the Overseas Aid budget – local councils find the places and provide the help needed.
So three is a pretty modest number. But Hammersmith and Fulham Council is still on nil. The Labour council has been full of moral indignation while failing to do anything practical. For instance it has failed to email residents seeking offers of accommodation.
Their Policy Officer offered me the following explanation:
Dear Cllr Phibbs
We have no plans to email residents to seek offers of accommodation for Syrian refugees as the Home Office scheme is targeting vulnerable people who have escaped a war zone. They will need secure accommodation with appropriate care and support which we can not expect to be provided in the private homes of residents of the borough.
We have, instead, contacted housing associations and private landlords to secure accommodation that will be appropriate to the assessed needs of vulnerable refugees, once referred to us by the Home Office.
I replied as follows:
But I’m afraid your reply is completely unsatisfactory for two reasons.
1. What is “essential” is for as many Syrian refugees to be granted sanctuary – even if it is in a spare room rather than self contained accommodation. I note your personal view but I have asked (via another email chain) as to whether or not it reflects Council policy. If it does then that is a complete disgrace,
2. Even were the Council to cravenly follow the hopeless Home Office guidance there still might well be residents willing to offer self contained accommodation. (For instance a homeowner with a basement converted to a “granny flat” for an elderly relative who has subsequently died.) Were we to request this to the 25,000 residents on
the Council’s email list this would cost nothing. Even if only one property was made available as a result that would be a worthwhile exercise.
I had not had any proper response to that but last week Peter Smith did email to say
“I can confirm that the Council still has no plans to email residents to seek offers of accommodation for Syrian refugees.”
An absolute disgrace.