Huw Lewis, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
To mark Refugee Week, I wish to update Members on the current work being undertaken on the Priorities and Actions contained in the Welsh Government’s Refugee Inclusion Strategy Action Plan. I am today launching an Update on the Action Plan to chart progress so far.
The Welsh Government believes that integration for refugees and asylum seekers begins on day one. That is why we launched our Refugee Inclusion Strategy in 2008 and followed it with an updated Action Plan published in July 2011, the 60th anniversary of the signing of the UN Refugee Convention. The Action Plan has been developed to show how the Welsh Government is meeting its commitments to refugees in Wales by setting out the future actions that the Welsh Government and its partner organisations will take to achieve the objectives within the Refugee Inclusion Strategy.
Since 2011, work has been undertaken to deliver the Action Plan not only by the Welsh Government but by many partner organisations that we fund. The Update Report details the action taken by the Welsh Government and our future commitments for action.
It is important also to highlight the contribution asylum seekers and refugees make to life in Wales. They bring with them a wide variety of skills which benefit and enrich the communities in which they live and who have made them welcome. Many asylum seekers and refugees offer their time as volunteers in diverse unpaid work from charity shops and churches to mental health organisations and other third sector organisations.
Our Programme for Government contains a commitment to promote community cohesion and support asylum seeking, refugee and migrant worker initiatives through the Community Cohesion Strategy and the Refugee Inclusion Strategy Action Plan. The Welsh Government is taking forward this commitment not only through the Action Plan but through a number of other key strategies and programmes. These include ‘Getting on together - a community cohesion strategy for Wales’ (2009), the Tackling Poverty Action Plan (2012) and the Strategic Equality Plan (2012). Taken together, these programmes provide a framework for cross-departmental and joined-up working within Welsh Government, prioritising the needs of those who face the greatest disadvantage and protecting those who are most vulnerable to poverty and marginalisation within our communities.
I am pleased to report that there has been positive progress on priorities contained in the plan which is detailed in the Update.
The Welsh Government’s Hate Crime Framework has been developed during the past year and will be launched for consultation next month. It will focus on three key objectives to prevent hate crime, support victims, and to improve the operational response to hate crime. This Framework is being driven by a Task and Finish Group with representatives from Welsh Government policy areas and also with key stakeholders across the statutory and voluntary sector. A group on Refugees and Asylum Seekers has contributed to the evidence gathering phase.
Unaccompanied asylum seeking children are a very vulnerable group for whom an assessment of age can be vital when claiming asylum. Age assessment is a very complex issue and has been subject to much discussion in Wales. I am pleased to report that the Wales Migration Partnership will be producing an Age Assessment Toolkit with support from the Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children Practitioners’ Network and with the agreement of Heads of Children’s Services in Wales. The aim of the Toolkit is to provide help and guidance to professionals and to standardise decision making in this complex area.
The Welsh Government appointed a new Anti Human Trafficking Co-ordinator in November 2012. His priorities for the next two years are to:
- Work with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Cymru lead and the Crown Prosecution Service to produce an Anti-Human Trafficking route map for Investigating and Senior Investigating Officers.
- Raise awareness with front line staff across Wales.
- Establish the Wales Anti-Human Trafficking Leadership Group to give strategic leadership in tackling human trafficking in Wales.
- Improve evidence base around human trafficking by increasing the number of organisations in Wales providing statistics to the National Referral Mechanism.
The Minority Ethnic Achievement Grant continues to support pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds, including refugees and asylum seekers, who are learning English as an additional language. It aims to improve standards of achievement for pupils from certain minority ethnic groups identified as being at risk of underachieving. The grant supports local authority ethnic minority achievement services including specialist English as Additional Language (EAL) teachers and teaching assistants. The grant amounts to £10.5 million in 2013-14 and is shared between all 22 local authorities. It is based on a funding formula which affords the highest weighting to asylum seeker children to recognise their special needs.
The Welsh Government is also committed to working with partners in the voluntary sector and refugee communities to ensure the diverse needs of asylum seekers and refugees are met. Both the Welsh Refugee Council and Displaced People in Action continue to provide expert advice and support, not only for refugees and asylum seekers themselves, but also for organisations working with asylum seekers and refugees helping to improve the experiences and lives of these vulnerable people. In addition, these organisations and others working in the sector ensure that the views of refugees are included in decisions about services and their delivery.
The delivery of the Refugee Inclusion Strategy Action Plan is cross-departmental and I will be working with Cabinet colleagues to take forward outstanding commitments. I would wish to thank all the organisations who have been involved in both the development of the Welsh Government Refugee Inclusion Strategy and associated Action Plan for their hard work in making Wales a country in which refugees and asylum seekers feel not only welcomed but supported and able to rebuild their lives.
A link to the updated Refugee Inclusion Strategy Action Plan can be found online.