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Asylum seekers find 'place of safety' in Blackburn
SIX asylum seekers have spoken about finding a place of safety in East Lancashire thanks to the dispersal contract between a council and the government.
They have joined refugee workers and politicians to express concern that handing the process to private company Serco could make life harder for those fleeing persecution and conflict to feel settled.
The six – three of whom dared not be named for fear of reprisals on their families – talked to the Lancashire Telegraph after it revealed that the number of asylum seekers in Blackburn could double from 350 to 700 under the new system which sees the local authority lose control of placements.
Saif Nemir, aged 48, was spirited out of Sudan five years ago by the British High Commission after claims he was passing sensitive information from the strife-torn country to overseas agencies put him at the risk of detention and torture.
Now a British resident working for a YMCA refugee project in Blackburn, he said: “I arrived at Heathrow and was resettled in Blackburn.
“As asylum seekers we have no choice over where we go. There have been issues but now I have a nice house in Whalley Range.
“I feel safe but not at home. I question whether things will be done as well when Serco take over the contract.”
“Tinta”, aged 25, who fled persecution and death in the Ivory Coast civil war in 2010, said: “I did not want to come to Blackburn but I have a lovely place here.
“It’s much better than I expected and the council have really looked after me and solved my problems.
“I don’t think a private company will take the same care.”
Christine Muanda, aged 53, fled the Congo civil war with her two youngest children in 2004, leaving her family.
After a spell in Darwen she lives in Whalley Range: “I feel safe and at home. The council have placed me carefully and we have been really welcomed by the local community. I now have UK residency and am looking for a job,” she said.
Ali Mahdavi, aged 37, was training as a dentist in Eastbourne when it was made clear he and his family would be under threat if they returned to Iran: He said: “We were given lots of support when we came to Blackburn and live in a very welcoming community near the town centre. I am now training again to become a UK dentist.”
“Sheed”, 39, fled Nigeria after his parents were killed and his home burnt.
He said: “I was in Britain on business when it happened. My family are still in danger. Audley Range is now my home and my family has been well looked after.”
“Asrat” fled Eritrea and said he dared not go home for fear of persecution for his Christian beliefs and now lives in Audley Range: “I have been made very welcome,” he said.
“Any problems have been sorted out by the council. I am very grateful.”
Blackburn refugee worker John East said: “We have serious and real concerns about this contract.
“The Blackburn Asylum Seeker and Refugees Multi-Agency Forum have been given assurances about causing the least disruption.
“But Serco as a company have a bad track record. We do not necessarily believe these assurances and will be keeping a close eye on what happens.”
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