Carl Sargeant, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children
The theme of this year’s Refugee Week Wales, was 'Welcome'. Wales has a proud history of welcoming refugees from all over the world. Refugees are forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster often with no warning and cannot return to their country unless the situation that forced them to leave improves. This is different to economic migrants who have made the conscious decision to leave their country to seek a better life, but who are free to return home if they wish.
I wish to send out a strong message that refugees and asylum seekers are welcome in Wales and that we are committed to supporting and enabling them to rebuild their lives and make a full contribution to society. Refugee Week Wales was an opportunity to promote this message across Wales, with well attended events which helped to strengthen links and understanding between asylum seekers and refugees and Welsh communities.
The Welsh Government believes integration begins on day one of arrival. To help ensure asylum seekers and refugees feel welcome in Wales, the Welsh Government provides funding for the Welsh Refugee Council, British Red Cross and the Trinity Centre. These organisations provide help and guidance to people who have had to flee their homes, often leaving behind their friends and families and having to build a new life in a Wales. Funding is also provided for the Migration Services in Wales project which is led by the Welsh Refugee Council in partnership with the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) and the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford. This project aims to facilitate a uniform approach to migration across Wales, taking account of local needs. The project held a very well received conference on 20 June, Migration in Wales: Developing Local Strategic Frameworks on Integration - An International Learning Exchange Conference.
In March 2016, following consultation with a wide variety of stakeholders including refugees and asylum seekers, the Welsh Government’s Refugee and Asylum Seeker Delivery Plan was published. It is aimed at supporting all refugees and asylum seekers, whatever route has led them to make Wales their home. Refugees and asylum seekers need our support as they adjust to their new lives and this Delivery Plan sets out our commitment to help them in this process. The Delivery Plan is a living document and will be reviewed regularly, particularly in light of the Syrian Resettlement Programme and other new schemes to support asylum seeking children.
Over the past 7 months a number of Syrian refugees have been welcomed to Wales under the Syrian Resettlement Programme. I am very pleased at the welcome they have been given by local authorities, organisations and individuals in Wales. Many of the local authorities who have taken refugees have no previous experience of working with, and providing services to refugees but they have risen to the challenge in an exceptional manner.
The next challenge facing Government and statutory and Third Sector organisations in Wales is the three new Home Office schemes involving asylum seeking and refugee children: ‘Children at Risk’ - resettling children and adults from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region; ‘Lone Asylum Seeking Children from the Camps in Europe’; and the ‘National Transfer Scheme’, established to help resettle Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children who arrive in the UK across the four nations. A Children’s sub group of the Welsh Government’s Syrian Resettlement Scheme Operations Board has been established specifically to ensure co-ordination for resettling refugee children and unaccompanied asylum seeking children across Wales. It will support local authorities in Wales, create additional capacity, skills and expertise so that they are better equipped to accommodate refugee and asylum seeking children.
I will work with local authorities and the Third Sector to provide a partnership approach and to continue to provide a welcome to refugees and asylum seekers who come to Wales.