Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Services feel migration pressure

Birmingham was described as an asylum dispersal area in a Home Office report

Half the population of England and Wales live in areas of relatively high immigration, putting pressure on essential services and social cohesion, according to a new Home Office analysis.

The report is said to mark the first attempt by officials to study the impact of different types of migration in different parts of the country.

It estimated that around 50% of the population live in areas experiencing "relatively high migration flows" - with 30% said to live in areas of "moderate" migration and 20% in areas where migration is "low".

The study found asylum-seekers and refugees were likely to have the highest impact on public services in an area because of their particular circumstances and levels of need. Low-skilled migrant workers were said to present a more "mixed picture" - with the potential to bring economic benefits to an area, particularly when the economy was doing well, but also having "higher impacts" on health , housing and social cohesion.

"The negative impacts will also be greater for illegal workers, including those who arrived on a student visa but whose primary intention was to work, as these will often live in poor conditions, sometimes work illegally and therefore not contribute taxes, and poorly integrate with the community in which they live," the report said.

In contrast, legitimate international students and skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area were said to have relatively little impact on social cohesion, actually making less demand on public services than the average UK resident.

The study found that an area's past migration history was "particularly influential" in determining how it coped with new migrants - particularly in terms their impact on social cohesion. The impact was likely to be felt most sharply in what the report termed "asylum dispersal areas" - such as Bolton, Plymouth, Rotherham and Swansea - and "migrant worker towns and countryside" - such as Boston, Dover, Fenland and Rugby - which had had limited prior experience of large-scale migration.

"The presence of asylum seekers, refugees and low-skilled workers may therefore have more noticeable effects on social cohesion in these areas," the report said. "This combination of high volumes of new migrants in an area with little previous experience of receiving migrants appears to give rise to greater challenges and potential tensions."

The impact of asylum seekers and refugees on health and social services was likely to be greater in the asylum dispersal areas and what were termed "diverse conurbation centres" - such as Bradford, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool - where there were large numbers seeking refugee status. However their longer history of dealing with the needs of migrant groups meant that the second group was better able to adapt to an influx of new arrivals.

The report said the "association between social cohesion and socio-economic deprivation" meant that such areas could experience what the report called "cohesion issues" - particularly if there were already high levels of deprivation in an area.

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