Welsh Lib Dems call for more support for asylum seekers in Wales
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader, Jane Dodds has called for more support for asylum seekers living in Wales and recounted the harrowing story of a refugee’s desperate bid for a better life.
This week in the Senedd, Ms Dodds called on the Welsh Government to offer a safe haven for those fleeing violence and persecution.
During her speech, she told the story of Rayan, a refugee who travelled across multiple countries and across the channel for a better life in Wales.
According to data from the Refugee Council, over 27,000 people crossed the channel in 2022, 8,700 of which were children – making up nearly 20% of all arrivals.
There are warnings that 45,000 asylum seekers are at risk of being destitute each year, alongside facing long detention periods.
According to data from the British Red Cross, a further 50,000 refugees could be made homeless by the end of this year.
In the chamber, Jane Dodds MS criticised the UK Government for their “overly harsh and inhumane” approach towards immigration.
This week, the UK Government has continued to struggle to finalise an agreement to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda.
The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak won a crunch vote in the Commons on his emergency legislation aimed at reviving the policy to deport asylum seekers to the African nation.
But he faces further opposition to his Bill from hardliners and more moderate wings of his party when it returns to the Commons next year.
Speaking in the Senedd, Welsh Lib Dem leader, Jane Dodds said: “The harrowing tale Rayan, a refugee who risked his life in search of asylum, epitomises the struggles faced by many who undertake the same perilous journey to our shores.
“On his journey Rayan faced imprisonment, racial abuse, life-threatening conditions, and constant instability. But after braving the traitorous Channel cross in a dangerously overcrowded boat, he finally reached the safety of Wales.
“Rayan is now studying in college and hopes one day to become a maths teacher. Fortunately, Rayan’s story has been given a happy ending, but for so many others like him this is not often the case.
“Despite the difficulties faced by those making these crossings, the UK Conservative government seems determined to respond with a cruel indifference. Whilst at the same time allotting millions to impractical and cruel policies like the Rwanda bill.
“We here in Wales must be different. We must show compassion and kindness, not cruelty and indifference.”
Responding, Minister for Social Justice and Chief Whip Jane Hutt made reference to a Sanctuary event that was hosted in the Senedd this week.
The event saw asylum seekers share their own personal stories of what living in Wales has been like for them.
Ms Hutt said: “I can see Members here today who joined and heard some of those stories, but also the expressions of such thanks and commitment about being able to come and live in Wales, even though there were challenges on housing, there were challenges on employment, quite rightly, and we need to hear those challenges.
“We need to hear from those who have joined us in Wales, who have sought sanctuary in Wales, and we need to understand them in terms of our policies. So, thank you for sharing with us.
The Minister for Social Justice went on to say the UK Government’s approach to immigration has undermined Wales’ ability to be a nation of sanctuary.
She added: “It’s making it far more difficult for people to integrate within communities, for us to utilise the skills and experience they bring with them, which is such a great benefit of migration.
“We’ve said that the Illegal Migration Act 2023 amounts to a ban on claiming asylum in the UK, and it’s fundamentally clear, as you say, Jane Dodds, that sufficient and legal routes to protection in the UK must exist.
“We’ve actually proved we can do it, haven’t we? We’ve proved we can do it with the support for the Ukrainian supersponsor route; we’ve proved we can do it on a team Wales basis. And I have to say that we had Home Office officials with us today in this meeting with local government who were very positive.
“They said that Wales could help show the way forward. But I hope many of us here will condemn the UK Government’s so-called Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill. Again, we believe that this will remove the rights of those who are claiming asylum in the UK, and I hope it is not implemented. It’s very clearly defying the Human Rights Act 1998 on many levels and it is entirely the wrong way to support people who are fleeing conflict to come to our country
“When it was revealed that it’s only a tiny percentage of people coming over on boats—and we decry the fact that they have to come through on boats because we haven’t got a proper safe and legal route—that then the Government decides to appoint a legal migration Minister to try and stop legal migrants coming to the UK as well? What a shocking indictment of that Government.”
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