Leeds feeling strain of 0.03% increase in population

It’s great to see Leeds talking seriously about how it can support people fleeing violence and forced to leave their homes and countries. The council task force has come up with a “compassionate” plan to offer 200 Syrians a home. (See http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/latest-news/top-stories/leeds-offers-home-to-200-refugees-1-7462798)

But is it really enough when there are over 4,000,000 Syrian refugees? And is the task force right when it judges that 200 is “the number of Syrians that can be helped by Leeds without putting strain on local services?”

Let’s get perspective

200 people in a city of 750,000 – that’s 0.03%. Here’s how it looks:200 refugees in Leeds

Look carefully enough and you’ll see one red dot in the middle.

Schools fight to get even one refugee

What about the pressure on schools. Well let’s assume the 200 include a LOT of children – say 100 of them. That would mean placing much less than one refugee in each school in Leeds. (Actually two-third of schools would miss out and not be able to have a refugee at all.)

I know I’m being unfair and the new refugees will not be spread evenly around the city – they are much more likely to be in the poorer, inner-city areas. I also know that Leeds already has a problem with a shortage of primary school places. But if we are talking about compassion then surely a rich city like Leeds can afford to do more.

2.5 GPs for each refugee

With 517 GPs in Leeds and a population of 750,000 that means 1,450 people per GP. No wonder there is strain on the system. But the addition of half a refugee can hardly be the cause of the strain. It’s too easy to blame the refugee at the back of the queue for the problems already in the system.

GP queue

Could do better

Offering a safe haven for 200 Syrians is wonderful things to do Leeds City Council should be congratulated on standing up for what is right. However, I believe we could do better.

Peter Richardson

Peter Richardson

Peter is a freelance writer and former director of Leeds Asylum Seekers' Support Network. Find him on twitter @viewsofworld

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