A Welsh Government Minister has come under fire from campaigners after announcing that she would not support free Welsh lessons for refugees and asylum seekers.
Asylum seekers are prevented from working, and live on £5.39 a day from the UK Government, so they are not able to pay for lessons. As a result, the Welsh Government funds free English lessons for refugees and asylum seekers, but they do not give the same right to free Welsh lessons.
In a recent response to a letter from campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith, Eluned Morgan, Minister for the Welsh language, says that she does not want to provide free Welsh lessons for refugees because: “We do not want the system [of Welsh language lesson fees] to discriminate between any specific groups of learners.”
In the same letter, the Minister also refuses to start drafting a policy to extend the language to migrants, an idea also proposed by the campaigners.
Responding to the Minister’s statement, Tamsin Davies from Cymdeithas yr Iaith said: “We’re extremely disappointed that the Minister has made this reactionary statement which contributes to the exclusion of some groups from the Welsh language, even while she claims to be treating everyone the same.
“Indeed, we condemn the Minister’s ignorance. It doesn’t seem that she’s aware of the fact that asylum seekers are prevented from working, or of the other barriers refugees and asylum seekers face in trying to get access to education courses.
“The Government’s laudable plan to make Wales a Nation of Sanctuary includes a commitment to ‘ensure refugees and asylum seekers are included in opportunities to learn the Welsh language.’. However, it isn’t clear what steps have been taken to achieve this aim.
“English lessons for these groups are free, so there’s no question that Welsh lessons should be free as well.
“Refugees who have learnt the language inspire people across the country and give everyone confidence to use the Welsh they have. This is an important way of including refugees in our society and realising the vision of making Wales a nation of sanctuary.”