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UP

Hodge call for rethink over immigrants



Nicholas Watt, political editor
Sunday May 20, 2007
The Observer


New immigrants should have their rights to social housing downgraded in favour of local families who feel aggrieved by the changing face of Britain, the Industry Minister Margaret Hodge argues in today's Observer.

In an outspoken intervention, which was last night condemned by the Refugee Council, Hodge calls for a dramatic shift away from the needs of migrant families to reassure Britain's 'poorest white communities' who feel abandoned. 'At present we prioritise the needs of an individual migrant family over the entitlement that others feel they have to resources in the community,' Hodge writes. 'So a recently arrived family with four or five children living in a damp and overcrowded privately rented flat with the children suffering from asthma will usually get priority over a family with less housing need who have lived in the area for three generations and are stuck at home with the grandparents.



'We should look at policies where the legitimate sense of entitlement felt by the indigenous family overrides the legitimate need demonstrated by the new migrants. We must debate these difficult questions.' Hodge, who writes that she is herself an immigrant, has long called for more action to address the fears of deprived white communities who feel they are losing out as large numbers of migrants arrive at British shores. She has seen many voters in her east London constituency of Barking flock to the BNP which claims that housing is being taken by new arrivals.

Nancy Kelly, head of UK and international policy at the council, said: 'The way to counter some of the views that are put forward by the far-right parties is not by trying to follow their lead.' Kelly added that asylum seekers are not entitled to council housing and arrivals from the new members of the EU face restrictions on benefit entitlements.

'People who are recognised as refugees are entitled to council housing but on exactly the same basis as a UK national, on the basis of need,' she said.




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