The last family of Kosovar refugees is beginning a new life after their Shipley reception centre was shut down.

Of 109 refugees who arrived in the city in June last year, 69 have been rehoused in the Bradford area while 20 have gone back to Kosovo and a further 20 have gone to live with extended families across the UK.

Plans will now go ahead to demolish the centre which had been earmarked for redevelopment as sheltered housing for 37 elderly people, although a planning application has still to be submitted.

It is unclear what will happen to the refugees after June 9, the date when their stay runs out, but they will have the right to ask for an extension of their 'leave to remain' - a legal process but not the same as seeking asylum.

Bob Isgrove, from Bradford Council's social services department, said: "When the Government invited them to come from Kosovo they were invited on the understanding that they were not seeking asylum and given 'exceptional leave to remain'.

"They were entitled to work and claim benefits and most of them are on benefits though a couple have jobs.

"The centre was very much a temporary solution and the people are happy in their new set ups though the future is unknown to them.

He added: "The Council is hoping to confirm in the next few weeks a partnership agreement with Anchor Housing to develop the centre as extra care homes for the elderly."

In Leeds, all reception centres have been shut down and the remaining 229 refugees are living in the community. One hundred and nine have gone back to Kosovo.

A spokesman for the Refugee Council said: "The situation is that they were given temporary permission to stay and will be encouraged to return, it's safe because K-For is there.

"Many more are not in a position to return. They may be from Serb-dominated areas where fighting is going on.

"They are extremely grateful for the support they have been shown from the British people and there has been a friendly and sympathetic welcome from local people.

Shipley MP Chris Leslie added: "I think that we have a fairly proud tradition in Britain and Shipley of helping people who are facing difficulties."

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