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Refugee housing delayed; ASYLUM SEEKERS: Crime records held.

Byline: By David Bell

A DEAL to reserve 250 city council homes for asylum seekers has been delayed for the past three months - because the Home Office is refusing to divulge any of their criminal records.

Protracted negotiations are still continuing over the three-year deal to accommodate around 600 refugees dispersed to Birmingham from the south east of England.

City housing chiefs are seeking assurances that Birmingham will not receive asylum seekers who ought to have been deported because of their criminal offences.

It comes after the release of more than 1,000 foreign prisoners without deportation checks being carried out.

They also want a promise that no asylum seekers who are either on bail, or have absconded from police custody will be despatched to the city.

But Jeremy Oppenheim, director of the Home Office's National Asylum Support Service, has refused to guarantee that no refugees with criminal convictions will be sent to the city.

"Government policy is explicit in that we cannot share this information," he explained.

He said details of an individual's criminal convictions were "extremely sensitive" and would not be disclosed to somebody providing accommodation for them unless there was a "clear need".

"As it happens, there is no evidence linking asylum seekers with crime or indicating that individuals seek asylum with the principal aim of committing crime in the United Kingdom.

"They are aware that any criminal conviction will make them subject to removal."

Cabinet housing chief, Coun John Lines, was not available for comment today.

Already, he has nearly halved the number of council homes in Birmingham which were previously taken out of general use and reserved for asylum seekers.

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COUNCIL CHIEF... Coun John Lines.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jun 13, 2006
Words:282
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