Wales politics

Syrian refugees to be housed across Wales by end of 2016

Syrian refugees thank people in Aberystwyth Image copyright Lindsay Cardwell
Image caption Syrian refugees in Aberystwyth thanked the town's residents after their welcome earlier this year

Syrian refugees are expected to have been housed in all council areas across Wales by the end of 2016.

The Welsh Local Government Association said more than 300 refugees will then have been resettled in Wales in the first year of the Syrian resettlement programme.

Councils had previously been criticised for the speed they had been rehousing Syrian refugees.

But the WLGA said the criticism had been unfair.

The UK government has pledged to settle 20,000 Syrians in the UK by 2020 under the scheme.

But in August it was reported that only nine of Wales 22 councils had taken part up to the end of June.

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Media captionCheryl Martin from umbrella body Children in Wales says asylum seekers have to navigate unfamiliar systems

The WLGA has now confirmed to the assembly's equality committee that all authorities will have received refugee families into their areas, with over 300 refugees resettled in Wales by the end of December.

In a written submission to the committee ahead of verbal evidence to AMs on Thursday, it said: "While there has been some criticism of local authorities for not responding quickly enough, for those authorities with limited experience, making sure appropriate plans were in place to ensure a well-managed resettlement process was key."

"As such, we believe the criticism levelled has been unfair and in the main, the smooth way in which the arrival of refugees has been undertaken has borne out the benefit of effective planning."

Oxfam Cymru had been previously critical of the speed that councils were taking refguees from Syria.

Kirsty Davies-Warner, head of the charity, said "We are encouraged by the clear change in pace of the resettlement of Syrian refugees to Wales.

"It's terrific to see that every local authority within Wales will welcome refugee families from Syria - showing that Wales is providing a truly national response."

Image copyright Lindsay Cardwell

The Welsh Government does not deal with immigration and asylum policy, which is instead handled by the Home Office, but it is responsible for many of the services that support refugees and asylum seekers.

It has a delivery plan which lists a series of actions in areas including mental health and housing that it wants to see implemented.

But the WLGA said while those who work on relevant issues may be aware of the plan's existence, "there are no established mechanisms through which Welsh Government raises awareness of the delivery plan with authorities or specific departments".

As a result, it said some organisations may not made be aware of the actions required of them, but it said many of the issues included in the plan were being addressed.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said its refugee and asylum seeker delivery plan published in March 2016 had already led to positive changes but it would update it with information on new schemes as they developed.

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