Debate on the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee Report on their Inquiry into Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Wales

Jun 21, 2017 | Articles, Assembly Business, Assembly Issues, International, UK Issues | 0 comments

Plenary Wednesday 21 June 2017

16:02:45

Spoken Contribution – 16:02:45
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Thanks to the Chairman for laying the committee’s report before the Chamber. The report is concerned primarily with improving conditions for refugees and asylum seekers once they have arrived in Wales, and to that end, it is a worthy effort. There was a lot of painstaking evidence heard relating to refugee conditions in Wales, and several of the committee members were skilful in bringing these conditions to light. And in itself, the desire to improve conditions for refugees is a laudable aim.

However, there are bound to be potential pitfalls in making such a report. One such pitfall is the danger of providing services to refugees that go beyond the services provided to ordinary members of the public. For instance, we can try to improve housing conditions for refugees, but this may not seem palatable to large sections of the public, if it means that they have to drop behind the refugees in the queue for social housing.

Spoken Contribution – 16:03:42
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No. The housing issue is perhaps the most obvious pitfall, and one that is discussed quite frequently among people I encounter in the course of normal life when refugee issues are raised.

Related to the issue of housing provision is one of funding. During the evidence sessions, we were at one point strongly advised by the relevant Minister, Carl Sargeant, not to lobby for extra powers without first securing a guarantee of extra funding. He warned that this had been done in the past, and problems had arisen as a result. When I look at the recommendations that are now coming, I struggle to see that there is any sign of any extra money coming from the Home Office or from any other department in Westminster. The Welsh Government itself is looking at setting up a small grants fund to avoid destitution for failed asylum seekers, but as far as I understand it, this is money coming from the Welsh Government’s own budget. So, what services will have to be cut from elsewhere in the budget to allow for this? And in any case, we don’t know if any of the money is going to be forthcoming.

One of the points that kept recurring in the evidence sessions was that destitution was inevitable among failed asylum seekers, as there was no welfare payment for them once they had failed their initial claim. But there is also no settled method of repatriating them to their country of origin. Most of them don’t have the money to fund their own repatriation. Many of the failed asylum seekers as a result remain in the UK and simply disappear off the map. It is truly an absurd system. We cannot hope to change this system in Wales as the powers to do so do not lie with us. But with this report, we are attempting to become the world’s first nation of sanctuary, which may encourage many more asylum seekers to try and come here. The inevitable effect of more coming without any prior reform of the asylum system will, I fear, be more destitution. Thank you.