Asylum hostel will shut

Angel Lodge, a temporary hostel for asylum seekers, is being closed down by government spending cuts.
Angel Lodge, a temporary hostel for asylum seekers, is being closed down by government spending cuts.
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A CONTROVERSIAL city centre asylum seeker’s hostel will close.

Angel Lodge, which provides temporary accommodation to asylum seekers, will shut in March after government funding was slashed.

The centre sparked a major backlash when plans to open the centre were first made public in 2001 and when it opened in 2007.

Both the police and council objected to the Home Office over the proposal, while residents were worried its location was not suitable for the numbers of asylum seekers staying there.

Up to 180 people stay at the hostel, close to HMP Wakefield, for between two and four weeks at a time.

They have included Iraqi interpreters issued with death threats after helping UK troops and people fleeing torture and rape in war-torn countries.

Future asylum seekers will be processed at new centres in Barnsley and Huddersfield and those currently staying at Angel Lodge will remain until they are found new accommodation.

But the Refugee Council, which runs Angel Lodge, claims the 60 per cent cut to its funding will mean less specialist support and more homeless asylum seekers on the streets.

Head of northern operations Charlotte Cooke said vital services including benefits advice and helping children wrongly classed as adult asylum seekers prove their age could be lost.

Mrs Cooke said: “We help asylum seekers access support, including briefing them of their rights and responsibilities and picking up issues with vulnerable clients.

“These are people that have been trafficked, suffered torture or domestic violence, and people who are minors who, we feel, have been wrongly routed through the system.

“We are very worried. I think we will see more destitute asylum seekers on the street.”

Mrs Cooke said the long-term costs to local authorities and health trusts by cutting the service would be more expensive than the savings.

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh said the majority of city residents had welcomed people who had stayed at the centre.

She said: “I know that many brave people who fled their own countries after helping UK forces in Iraq passed through the centre.”

“I’m proud that council and other public services worked so well together to support the men, women and children who sought sanctuary in our city.”