Wales politics

Improve how people see refugees, AMs tell ministers

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Media captionPeople share their experiences at a help centre in Cardiff

Ministers should try to improve people's views of refugees and asylum seekers, a group of AMs has said.

The communities committee wants a publicity campaign like one in Scotland which encourages people to "have a cup of tea with a refugee".

Committee chairman John Griffiths said there was a misconception refugees get "better provision" than others.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said it was committed to helping refugees "rebuild their lives".

The inquiry looked at how devolved services were working for refugees.

It said by the end of 2016, 397 Syrian refugees had come to Wales under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.

That is 12.81 per 100,000 people compared to 6.21 in England, 24.10 in Scotland and 19.41 in Northern Ireland.

The total number of refugees of all nationalities settled in Wales is estimated to be between 6,000 and 10,000.

The committee has called for:

  • The Welsh Government to consider extending concessionary transport schemes to refugees and asylum seekers
  • An improved housing complaints procedure
  • Better English language lessons
  • More legal advice
  • Minimum standards of mental health support for unaccompanied child asylum seekers
Image caption John Griffiths said he wanted to ensure more refugees get a good welcome in Wales

While there is a lot of empathy for refugees, many people believe it is not something they should get involved in because the issue is not devolved, according to Oxfam Cymru's Matthew Hemsley.

But speaking to BBC Radio Wales, he said asylum seekers rely on devolved services such as access to the NHS, housing, education and transport.

Monmouth MP David Davies said we should welcome those who are currently living here, but he was cautious about future policies.

"We must recognise that many are coming here because they are seeking a better way of life," he said.

"There are 100 million looking to come to the west. Germany found when it opened its doors that one million came in a year."

He said the country "can't cope" with the "virtually unlimited" number that want to come and a focus of charities should be at refugee camps and reintegrating people into their own communities.

'Fleeing war'

Labour AM Mr Griffiths said: "Some people will think that people aren't really genuine asylum seekers and refugees, they're coming here as economic migrants - that when they get here perhaps they get better provision than is provided for the general population in Wales.

"None of these things are true and we want to help better integration."

Mr Griffiths said ministers had an integration delivery plan the committee wanted to improve so more refugees and asylum seekers got "a very good welcome in our communities".

On Monday, UKIP committee member Gareth Bennett published his own report saying the committee's work risked "encouraging more spontaneous arrivals".

The Welsh Government said it would consider the recommendations when it revised its refugee and asylum seeker delivery plan later this year.

"This will reiterate our commitment to supporting and enabling people fleeing war and persecution to rebuild their lives and make a full contribution to society," said a spokeswoman.

"We are investing around £1m over the next three years in services to provide advice and advocacy to people who have had to flee their homes and have recently made £40,000 available to support local health boards to train mental health clinicians in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in child and adult refugees and asylum seekers."

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