Wales politics

Refugees encouraged by assembly committee, UKIP AM claims

Gareth Bennett

A UKIP AM has produced a report accusing an assembly committee of encouraging asylum seekers and refugees to come to Wales.

Gareth Bennett claimed the findings of a yet-to-be published inquiry into refugee services risked "encouraging more spontaneous arrivals" in the UK.

Labour AM Jenny Rathbone said she was disappointed he did not engage with evidence gathered by the committee.

Mr Bennett declined to comment on the criticism.

He is a member of the assembly equality, local government and communities committee, which has been investigating provision for refugees and asylum seekers in Wales, especially those from Syria.

It is understood that, during March, the South Wales Central AM told the committee he did not agree with the report's findings.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Gareth Bennett said refugees, pictured here arriving in Germany in 2015, should not be encouraged to come to Wales

Mr Bennett has since produced a UKIP-branded report entitled "Wales' Refugee Problem" where he compiled material about refugees, mostly from the Times newspaper.

He wrote: "The committee's report, by seeking to extend provision in Wales not only to Syrian refugees but to refugees arriving spontaneously, is not recognising the difficulties of establishing who are the genuine political migrants.

"The danger is that Wales will be complicit in encouraging more spontaneous arrivals in the UK, which the UK taxpayer will then have to pay for. This cannot be right."

Colleagues of Mr Bennett on the committee claimed the AM did not raise any objections during the progress of the inquiry.

Cardiff Central AM Ms Rathbone said she "completely disagreed" with the suggestion that the committee could be encouraging spontaneous arrivals.

"I really don't think asylum seekers would be reading our report and thinking Wales is the place we should head for," she said.

"In any case they have no control over where they go."

Ms Rathbone said that although the views Mr Bennett held were not surprising, she said it was disappointing "that he didn't engage with the evidence that we gathered and instead came out with a diatribe based on [Times columnist] Matthew Parris".

The findings of the inquiry are not yet known publicly.

Committee chairman, Labour AM John Griffiths, said: "The committee conducted its inquiry over several months taking a wide range of evidence, much of it emphasising the positive role that refugees and asylum seekers can have in Wales.

"Our focus was not the question of whether we should accept more refugees and asylum seekers, or on the level of refugees and asylum seekers entering Wales, but on the support available to them in Wales when they arrive, taking into account what lies within the assembly's devolved competence.

"Our conclusions and recommendations are set out in the report to be published later this week."

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