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

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