A COUNCIL being targeted in a Government push to distribute asylum seekers more evenly across the country has raised a litany of concerns – including over radicalisation – about the move.

Hambleton District Council’s leading members have agreed to defer a decision over whether it will participate as a ‘dispersal area’ for people who have left their home countries and are seeking refugee status in the UK.

While all local authorities in South and West Yorkshire and many in the North-East have acted as dispersal areas for years – working with G4S to explore potential opportunities to buy or lease suitable accommodation for asylum seekers – none in North Yorkshire have done so.

Home Office data has shown there are more than five times as many asylum seekers living in the poorest third of the country as in the richest third, leading MPs to call for an overhaul of the dispersal system.

In response to the Government request, York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Housing Board has agreed a proposal, subject to agreement of district councils, that the county will take up to 50 asylum seekers over two years and that no more than 20 will be placed in any single district.

An officers’ report to Hambleton council’s Cabinet, which is the first authority in the county to consider the Government request, stated indirect costs – such as staff time – to the council could be in the region of £4,000 for each asylum seeker.

Its planning and housing boss, Councillor David Webster, told the authority’s Cabinet he had numerous “misgivings” over the request.

He said: “Just to remind members last week saw the anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing and this week saw the Westminster Bridge and Borough Market terrorist attack remembered.

“Yesterday, the Home Secretary announced further increases to measures to counteract terrorism. So, my main concern is with the security issue and I feel that we must undertake a fair number of exercises to ensure there are no terrorism risks with this process.

“What provision will be made to ensure no radicalisation has taken place of the people who are to be placed and housed in Hambleton? Will constant monitoring regarding radicalisation be undertaken?”

Other councillors questioned whether the authority could afford to take asylum seekers, given the financial pressures it was facing and a possible £80,000 bill it could face. The authority’s chief executive, Dr Justin Ives, emphasised concerns that there would be no provision for Muslim asylum seekers to exercise their religious freedoms in the district as there are no mosques.

He added: “Cabinet are not saying all asylum seekers are terrorists. Absolutely not. What they are concerned is the possibility that some of those people entering the UK are being radicalised whilst being in their country of origin.”

Councillors agreed the district should not commit to taking asylum seekers until their questions had been answered.