East Ayrshire Council has hit back at a UK Government minister’s claims that it has taken in ZERO asylum seekers.

Minister for Immigration, Robert Jenrick MP, had responded to a question from an SNP MP in the House of Commons by claiming no asylum seekers had been rehomed in SNP-led authorities, including East Ayrshire and North Ayrshire Council.

But East Ayrshire Council has hit back, pointing out that the council plays no part in deciding where asylum seekers coming through the UK’s supported asylum scheme were rehomed.

They also said that almost 300 refugees to East Ayrshire through other programmes.

Mr Jenrick also omitted Conservative-run South Ayrshire Council, which also received no asylum seekers through the UK government scheme.

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EAC said that the figures related to a contract awarded by the UK Government to the Mears Group, who allocate housing to asylum seekers, without any involvement for local authorities.

The scheme is the ‘third pathway’ for refugees, alongside dedicated schemes for Afghan and Ukrainian resettlement.

Mr Jenrick had been asked about the impact of the Illegal Immigration Bill in Scotland.

Glasgow South West SNP MP Chris Stephens claimed that the bill would restrict the Scottish Government’s ability to support victims of human trafficking.

In response, the Minister claimed that councils where the SNP was the largest group had not taken in asylum seekers.

The statement prompted a sharp rebuke from East Ayrshire Council.

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David Mitchell, head of governance at the council, said: “This comment from the UK Government Minister in relation to asylum seekers is confusing.

“We do not have any role in allocating asylum seekers.

“As of last week there were no asylum seekers dispersed into East Ayrshire through this contract.

“This is not a matter for the local authority but rather for Mears and the Home Office to answer.

“Under our own jurisdiction however, since December 2015, East Ayrshire Council has resettled 94 individuals through various UK Resettlement Schemes, including Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan nationals.

“Since the Ukrainian conflict began last year over 200 Ukrainian nationals have also been welcomed to the authority area.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked the Home Office why the Minister quoted figures for a scheme that local authorities had no involvement in, but not those it had.

A spokesperson said that the Home Office was working with councils in a bid to create a more ‘equitable split’ across Scotland and was looking at ways to address challenges in rural areas and housing markets.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The number of people arriving in the UK who seek asylum and require accommodation has reached record levels, placing unprecedented pressures on the asylum system.

“We have been clear that the use of hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable and we are committed to making every effort to reduce hotel use and limit the burden on the taxpayer.

“The fairer full dispersal model aims to increase the amount of accommodation available for asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute helping to reduce the time they need to stay in costly hotels.” 

Plans had been mooted to disperse asylum seekers across all 32 Scottish Councils, but a proposal by Mears had subsequently seen just under half included.

The Minister had also claimed that Scotland had taken in only 4.5 per cent of asylum when it made up 8.1 percent of the UK population.

The UK Government’s own figures showed that, including the Scottish Government’s own schemes, Scotland had taken in  the highest number of asylum seekers per capita at 0.55 per cent compared to 0.35 percent in England, 0.21 per cent in rNorthern Ireland and 0.33 per cent in Wales.