We want a Wales that offers a warm welcome to refugees and asylum seekers
Hayley Richards Policy & Advocacy Officer at Oxfam Cymru
6th Mar 2017
It is easy to feel powerless when the latest figures show that more than 65 million people have been forced to flee their homes by terrifying conflict and violence, millions more by natural disaster and poverty.[i]
[i] The UNHCR, June 2016: http://www.unhcr.org/news/latest/2016/6/5763b65a4/global-forced-displacement-hits-record-high.html,
But we must not forget that Wales has a proud history of welcoming those fleeing persecution and harm (particularly women and children) - a tradition that is again living and breathing in towns and villages across the country. We recognise the faces of people just like you and me who have often been torn away from their families, children who are on their own and we act. People and communities in every part of Wales have set up schemes of support and welcome.
Welsh local government has also responded with the latest migration figures showing that at least 397 Syrian people are now resettled in Wales through the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme. By the May local government elections, every authority in Wales will have welcomed Syrian's into their community and we should all be incredibly proud of this.
But there is much more to be done, Syrian families represent just a fraction of the total number of asylum-seekers and refugees living in Wales. As well as supporting more Syrian people through the resettlement scheme, councils across Wales need to start seriously considering how they can build on the experience gained through Syrian resettlement to play a more active role in welcoming and supporting other asylum-seekers dispersed to Wales.
In addition, more needs to be done locally to ensure that people welcomed into our communities are able to access the services they need and are empowered to use their skills, education and experience for the benefit of all.
Local government needs to understand the importance of proactive communications for community cohesion. Councils should continue to use positive language when speaking of asylum-seekers and refugees and speak out against discrimination, prejudice or false information about people seeking sanctuary in Wales.