Wales to lead to the way in Syrian resettlement?

Kirsty Davies-Warner says Wales should do its fair share in resettling Syrian refugees.

We are living in a world where more people are displaced from their home than at any time since the second world war. The UN confirmed last week that there are now over four million Syrian refugees living in appalling conditions with little help of anything changing in the near future.

The picture with this post shows children from two families, who were neighbours in Syria before they escaped the war three months before this picture was taken on May 4, 2013. They now live in a roughly constructed room in a rubble-strewn open car park area under an apartment block in the town of Qalamoun, near Tripoli in Lebanon. The families pay $100 every month for the room in which they live.

The UK has so far been very generous in terms of aid but is sadly not backing it up in terms of refugee resettlement.  The UK, despite a proud tradition of offering protection to those most in need has resettled less than 200 Syrian refugees.  Nearly all of the 4 million refugees are in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. If the UK government are to have any credibility when we call on much poorer countries like Lebanon and Jordan to keep their borders open and uphold the rights of refugees then we must be prepared to show the same solidarity at home.  Oxfam has called for the world’s richest countries to take 5% of refugees from Syria.

Lebanon – roughly the same size as Wales – is currently hosting 1.2 million registered refugees from Syria. Wales should be resettling at least 326 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015 according to Oxfam’s Fair Share analysis. Oxfam Cymru and DPIA have been working together to see why, to date, no refugees from Syria have been resettled in Wales despite local authorities in Scotland and England offering sanctuary.

In keeping with our proud tradition of solidarity there is a fair amount of appetite in Wales to take our fair share. In the last few weeks there have been some promising signs that progress is being made. Despite immigration policy not being devolved the First Minister has recently written to the Home Secretary confirming that the Welsh Government is very willing to play its part in supporting the implementation of the Vulnerable Person Relocation (VPR) scheme. The Welsh Local Government Association met recently and discussed VPR and are actively looking for ways that Welsh local authorities can make the scheme work in a devolved setting.  Monmouthshire County Council in particular has played its part in recent years settling Afghan refugees and Cardiff and Swansea Councils are both Cities of Sanctuary.

In the coming month I am meeting with the leaders of both Cardiff and Monmouthshire councils to discuss Syrian resettlement to Wales.  We hear news every day of people contacting their local authorities, AM’s and MPs indicating that they would welcome Syrian refugees in their communities, there is a rising tide of opinion that the UK, and Wales are not doing enough.  We are asking every local authority in Wales to take 15 Syrian refugees, if they agree, very quickly, Wales could be leading the way in Syrian resettlement, sending a strong message that we are a Nation of Sanctuary. You can add your voice too. Let your local authority know that you are not willing to stand by during the largest refugee crisis of the last century.

Kirsty Davies-Warner is Head of Oxfam Cymru

9 thoughts on “Wales to lead to the way in Syrian resettlement?

  1. `Check your privilege ,Kirsty.
    But what about under priviliged people here in Wales languishing on waiting lists for years, many with young families.
    Don’t Welsh citizens have the right to housing to a scarce resource when it is so expensive and so limited ?
    I thought charity began at home…

  2. No thank you. We already take more than our share of asylum seekers in Wales due to rented accommodation being so cheap compared to the south east.

  3. Wales should definitely accept far more refugees than we currently take. What irks most people I know is not migrants from Syria, or other war ravaged states, but the burgeoning in-migration of offenders and families on long term benefits from areas like Birmingham and Liverpool. We urgently need some re-balancing.

  4. i don’t know all the facts but I have heard the same complaints as Ken Thompson has – housing associations filling dwellings with poor families on benefits from English conurbations, often to the detriment of order in local schools. Some folk I know in Haverfordwest say it is a particular problem there. Yet we are always told Wales needs more housing. Is it local people who need more housing or do we need it to accommodate the poor of Birmingham? And if local people need it, what is the economic system that means it goes to people from elsewhere? 326 people from Syria each year would be a drop in the bucket compared to what is happening already.

  5. Kirsty Davies-Warner seems a typical well off middle class person with a good heart no doubt. But utterly nieve to the realities of life in this world. Wales needs more homegrown economic development and improved conditions for its existing residents, before it can cope with more people wherever they are from. Some very well documented in depth long term studies on employment in the future clearly show that the trends towards automation will mean that the uk workplace will lose some 10million jobs in the next twenty to thirty years, as huge strides in technology replace people in reality. Thats all fine, except that if you keep filling the country up with displaced people from wherever mostly with no skills and with their dependents. Not only will you start to displace the exisiting already hard pressed threatened workforce, but you will create a disasterous recipe for a race and culture war right in our midst. We already have a very poor region due to consistent bad and over government. Their is a growing white underclass who are constantly being stigmatised unfailrly because they were brought up in a culture created by these very bad governments. This all sounds very selfish, but the fact is that the uk and wales is not the refuge of last resort and we have to sadly say no.

  6. Yes, Wales should do as much as it can to help families from a constantly changing unpredictable war zone. If death and destruction was raining down on all our towns and cities I would hope our citizens could find countries willing to offer us a home. Can’t believe some of the responses you have had to Kirsty Davies- Warners plea !

  7. All the comments above (both pro and against welcoming more refugees) indicate a real need to dispel the present climate of fear and xenophobia. The first practical step might be for Councils and the government to assure those who would be prepared to welcome families into their homes of basic financial support as well as help with the skills needed for our Syrian friends to begin their new lives among us. Many of these people are in any case already highly skilled and well educated, but they would need to be helped to find appropriate work in the context of their professions and/or with the language skills needed for them to do that. We need our refugees because they will enrich our lives here in Wales in so many ways. Making them feel needed is probably the greatest gift we can offer them at this time. So could we encourage our Councils to take practical steps with regard to a share of the applicable housing benefit for hosts and a basic subsistence allowance for their guests? This would take a great deal of pressure off all parties involved in the hosting process. I think there are probably many people in Wales who really look forward to welcoming a Syrian family for however long it takes for them to get back on their feet and make their unique contribution to our lives here in Wales.

  8. Let more and more come into the UK to the point when we are finally bankrupted. Then we cannot help.

    The U.K. are borrowing at record levels when there is child property at home. The NHS funding is not covering UK needs let alone funding an international health service. Schools are full with no places for thousands of children. Housing waiting list in crisis the refegies who we do house which uk families loose out?

    Close the borders and restrict as the Australian governments do.

    Deal with uk refegies first

Comments are closed.

Also within Politics and Policy