OTLEY'S MP is urging local people to offer a helping hand to refugees.

Alex Sobel (Lab, Leeds North West) is backing the Leeds Asylum Seekers’ Support Network's (LASSN) appeal for people with a spare room to become Grace Hosts.

The scheme involves matching destitute asylum seekers with those who can offer them a place to stay, even if only for a weekend.

Mr Sobel, who has been a Grace Host himself, said: "LASSN are an amazing charity which does vital work with refugees and asylum seekers, particularly those who have fallen through the gaps in the system.

"I would encourage those who can to think about getting in touch with LASSN to offer accommodation for those who are fleeing horrendous conditions - they are particularly looking for people who could do whole weeks or weekends at a time.

"My wife and I were hosts for a while and we found it a very worthwhile and interesting experience.

"For those who cannot support by offering a place to stay, there are lots of other ways to help such as giving some time aside in your week to help to teach English.

"Even though the refugee crisis has fallen out of the news, it is a real and present humanitarian problem that will only be solved by governments, organisations like LASSN and members of the local community working together."

The charity found hosts for 90 people who had nowhere to sleep last year, including 15 who would otherwise have been sleeping on the streets over Christmas.

LASSN Director Jon Beech said: "Many of the asylum seekers we help have fled desperate situations such as war and torture, or have been trafficked here against their will.

"They then find themselves in a strange city and have no-one to turn to.

"Many people have an image of a typical asylum seeker in their head, but the people we meet aren’t all young men in their twenties; they’re pregnant mums and 70 year old grandads.

"Our volunteers show real human kindness by offering a spare room for them to stay either for a few nights, a weekend or if planned, even longer.”

All Grace Hosts are offered training by the charity and are matched to asylum seekers who have a support worker.

To find out more visit www.lassn.org.uk .