Wales politics

Migrant crisis: Wales' refugee response too narrow, says charity

Syrian children among several migrants Image copyright Getty Images

The remit of a taskforce set up in response to the Syrian refugee crisis is too "narrow", a charity has warned.

Welsh ministers created the Syrian Refugee Taskforce to deal with people arriving in Wales under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme.

The Welsh Refugee Council told BBC Wales the group should expand to deal with around 3,000 asylum seekers and refugees already in Wales.

Ministers said they were consulting on plans to help all seeking sanctuary.

The taskforce met in Cardiff on Thursday to discuss healthcare, education and housing provision for refugees.

The first Syrians to arrive in the UK as part of the VPR scheme, which is run by the Home Office, landed in Glasgow on Tuesday.

The Welsh Refugee Council said about 40 were likely to come to Wales in December.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has previously suggested between 500 and 600 could be settled in Wales over the next five years, based on the UK taking 10,000.

With up to 20,000 refugees now expected, Wales' share is likely to be around 1,000.

Hannah Wharf, from the Welsh Refugee Council, said the Welsh government's political response to refugees's needs was too narrow.

"We need that response to expand to include all asylum seekers and refugees living and arriving in Wales," she said.

"What we're going to end up with is a two-tier system, where a lot of resources and strategic oversight goes in to responding to the needs of people through the Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme.

"What we don't want is to forget about the higher numbers and the very complex needs of the existing asylum seeker and refugee population".

'Not welcome'

One man who came from Syria to Cardiff in September, who has been left homeless while waiting for his asylum claim to be processed, said: "I don't have anything to support myself.

"I'm just going from place to place to the charities to feed myself.

"It's made me feel I'm not welcome."

Speaking after the taskforce meeting, Communities Minister Lesley Griffiths said all 22 councils were willing to resettle Syrian refugees, but she believed only around four were actually ready to do so.

"It's very important we don't set any of them up to fail," she said.

She rejected the call to expand the taskforce, saying it was specific to the VPR scheme and that other measures were being explored to help asylum seekers and refugees already in Wales.

Earlier, the Welsh government said it was consulting on its Refugee and Asylum Seeker Delivery Plan, "to reflect on the wider lessons of the current crisis and ensure the plan matches today's changing circumstances".


What is the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme?

Image copyright AP
  • All "paperwork" is done before refugees arrive and they get housing, access to medical care, education and can work
  • Refugees taken in via the scheme will be granted five years' humanitarian protection which includes access to public funds, the labour market and the possibility of family reunion, if a person is split from their partner or child when leaving their country
  • After that they can apply to settle in the UK
  • David Cameron said it would be funded for the first 12 months by the UK government
  • Before the scheme was introduced nearly 5,000 Syrians were granted asylum to the UK in the last four years

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