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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Leeds Councillor hits out at ‘hostile’ environment towards asylum seekers

A senior Leeds councillor has hit out at the Home Office for creating a “hostile” environment for young asylum seekers.

Councillor Fiona Venner, who is in charge of children’s social care in the city, suggested efforts to look after youngsters fleeing persecution and war were being undermined by government policy.

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.

The issue was raised at a scrutiny meeting at Civic Hall on Wednesday, where the plight of child asylum seekers who come to the UK without their parents was discussed at length.

A report published last week revealed that 30 children sent to hotels in Leeds had been wrongly categorised as adults by The Home Office upon their arrival in the country.

Cllr Fiona

Councillor Venner said: “I’m really passionate about this area of our work, and I’m really proud of the support we provide to unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

“But the work is challenging. We are dealing with children who are highly traumatised. They’ve escaped situations of sometimes inhuman cruelty. They’ve endured horrific journeys to get here and some will have seen people die.

“And frankly, our asylum processes are traumatising as well.”

Councillor Venner referenced the painting over of a mural featuring Disney characters at an asylum reception centre in Kent, which was widely reported to have been ordered by immigration minister Robert Jenrick.

Mr Jenrick himself later said the paintings had not been “age appropriate” and insisted all asylum seekers would be dealt with “decency and compassion at all times”.

But Councillor Venner told the meeting: “I think we’d all recognise that we’re living in a hostile climate for asylum seekers and refugees – even children.

“We want to provide stability, certainty and opportunity and we’re doing that in a context that’s mitigating against that.

“The work we do is inspiring and the young people we work with are amazing and testament to what the human spirit can achieve, but we are working in a very hostile and challenging context.”

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