Letter: Britain treats heroes of free speech like criminals

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Sir: Polly Toynbee's article on the treatment of refugees ("Asylum-seekers hunger for justice", 5 February) made depressing reading. While the problems caused to local authorities by the Government's drastic legislation are small beer compared with the suffering of the refugees themselves, the following points do need to be made.

It costs London boroughs pounds 200 to provide a week's food and the most basic shelter for each refugee. The number of asylum-seekers currently being cared for in this way in London is rising steadily, and now stands at 3,025 - a total cost to the boroughs of more than pounds 600,000 every week. While the Government has said it will provide a special grant to help the worst-hit authorities meet these costs, no money has yet been forthcoming and there are no plans to make money available for 1997/98.

It is appalling that local authorities have been left to cope with the wholly predictable consequences of the Government's misguided legislation.

SIAN WALKER

Chair, Social Services and Health Committee

Association of London Government

London SW1

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