Refugee Week is a celebration of people from all backgrounds, working together to understand different points of view, and to build integrated communities which welcome people who have sought sanctuary in the UK.
The theme for 2020 is ‘Imagine the potential of Wales as a true Nation of Sanctuary’.
Refugees and asylum seekers often arrive in Wales following traumatic experiences in their countries of origin and on their journeys to the UK. Welsh Government is working to ensure that these individuals are supported to rebuild their lives and make a full contribution to Welsh society.
The UK Government is responsible for asylum policy, which includes asylum application decision making, the provision of support and accommodation for asylum seekers, and the operation of refugee resettlement schemes. This means that many of the challenges experienced by these communities cannot be fully resolved without policy changes by the UK Government.
The UK Government decides how many sanctuary seekers are resettled in Wales and the Welsh Government works to ensure those individuals are given the best chance to integrate and rebuild their lives in our communities.
The ‘Nation of Sanctuary’ plan outlines the breadth of work which the Welsh Government is undertaking across Wales to ensure inequalities experienced by these communities are reduced, access to opportunities increased, and relations between their communities and wider society improved.
Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt, said:
“Refugees are just ordinary people, like us. But they have lost everything. They have been forced to flee war and persecution in their own countries and, just like us, they seek a life of dignity, freedom and security.
“Wales is now their home. They contribute to their communities, and they are rebuilding their lives here. We value and benefit from their skills, their entrepreneurial spirit and the sharing of their cultures.”
Homa, a refugee from Iran, said:
“I want to say thank you to the Welsh Government and to the people of Wales for supporting me. I feel at peace. Living in Wales has helped me to gain the self-confidence I lost in my country. Here, people encourage me – they make me stronger. I believe that I can do something for this country, for this government, and for these kind people. You make me feel that I belong, and that this is my home.”
Jane Hutt continued:
“Welsh Government is here to stand by you, to work with you, and to learn from you. We remain committed to making Wales a real Nation of Sanctuary, where people of every race, faith and colour are valued for their character and actions.
“I want to say to all refugees and asylum seekers living in Wales – you are heard, you are welcome, and it is our privilege to have you here.”
Notes to editors
Notes for editors
The Nation of Sanctuary plan can be viewed here: https://gov.wales/refugee-and-asylum-seeker-plan-nation-sanctuary)
Homa, from Iran
- How long have you been in Wales? Since 2018
- Do you have a job, volunteer or study in Wales? Tell us about it… I’m studying an English course at the moment. I have a Masters’ degree in Microbiology from Iran. I am hoping that I can continue with this career in Wales.
- What makes you happy about being in Wales? What has helped you to feel welcomed into your community in Wales? I feel like a free woman now, I can follow my dreams and make an opportunity for myself to get my qualifications here. With the situation in my country, there were no opportunities.
It was difficult to move to a new country, as I didn’t know the culture, but I soon realised that the Welsh Government and the people of Wales wanted to help me to be independent.
The people of Wales are warm-hearted who guide me and give me help and support. They have helped me to gain my self-confidence, which I had lost. They have made me feel that I belong – that this is my home. I feel happy and at peace.
- Wales wants to become a Nation of Sanctuary. What do you think about this? I think Wales has so much potential as a Nation of Sanctuary. The Government treats refugees and asylum seekers well and helps people to feel secure. Wales is a very good candidate for this title.
- Is there a message you have for the people of Wales? I have many friends here from different nationalities, who have been very welcoming. I believe that I can be successful in this country because of the opportunities that the Welsh Government has given me. I believe that I can do something for this country, for this Government, and for these kind people. I would like to say to the people of Wales – thank you, you are good people.
Danial, from Iran
- How long have you been in Wales? Since September 2019.
- Do you have a job, volunteer or study in Wales? Tell us about it… I work as a volunteer in the kitchen of a charity. It’s difficult to find work when you arrive in this country, but I’m enjoying my time here. I also help with some translation.
- What makes you happy about being in Wales? What has helped you to feel welcomed into your community in Wales? I play the piano here in the charity, which helps me to feel at home. I really like the Welsh people I’ve met, we talk and laugh a lot, but I haven’t been able to meet many people outside the charity due to the Coronavirus pandemic. I’m looking forward to making more friends here after lockdown.
- Wales wants to become a Nation of Sanctuary. What do you think about this? I think that would be perfect, and I’m ready to do my part to make this happen for the people of Wales. I’d like to help the Welsh Government to make this a safe and welcoming place for refugees.
- Is there a message you have for the people of Wales? I am very thankful to the people of Wales, all the people I have met have been very kind, they respect and me and have helped me to feel accepted, and I hope I will have opportunities to study and work here.
It is difficult though, because refugees may have high level degrees (I’m a qualified architect), but my qualification doesn’t count here.
It is very difficult for people in a safe place like Wales to understand what refugees have been through, but I thank people for trying – all we’re looking for is a normal life.
I’m optimistic – this is a country of opportunity. I hope to see this country safe, peaceful, and happy.
“A lot of people don’t understand what it is like to be a refugee. Some people may assume that we come here to take their jobs, but we come to save our lives. We all live on one planet, we just need to look after one another and care for one another.”