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Refugees, asylum seekers and cities of sanctuary

Ben Black reports on the City of Sanctuary session on providing a new approach to refugees and asylum seekers.  The session was part of TAI 2017.

“If you meet an asylum seeker just put your smile on. We don’t want anything else from you.”
Amber Esther is an asylum seeker who has lived in Swansea for four years and  that was her powerful message to delegates at TAI 2017. She is the co-chair of Swansea City of Sanctuary.
She joined Kathryn Willams, secretary of the Swansea City of Sanctuary, to talk about a campaign to make Wales a ‘Nation of Sanctuary’.
It’s a movement across the UK and Ireland that “seeks to create a culture of hospitality and welcome for people seeking sanctuary.”
Swansea was the first in Wales to get this status and the second in the UK.
Kathryn explained the difference between refugees, asylum seekers and how the Syrian resettlement programme works.
She said asylum seekers have no legal right to work or benefits and can wait a long time- five years is not uncommon- for a decision.
She said: “Think what it’s like living under those circumstances?”
Amber said that asylum seekers have no choice over where they live. That decision is made by the Home Office.
“You are told ‘that’s your house. These are your keys.”
Amber can’t work but does volunteer and that has helped her learn English. She said: “The people of Wales are so accepting. If I ask for directions sometimes people take me to the place!”
Kathryn said as housing powers are devolved in Wales she felt decisions over housing for asylum seekers in the country would be better made by the Welsh Government.

Destitute asylum seekers

If an asylum seeker is refused permission to stay they can be left with nowhere to stay and no money.
Residents in Swansea have helped 32 people in this situation since January 2015 by offering them a room to stay in as a guest. Stays have ranged from 3 days to two years. Approximately 3,800 bed nights have been provided thanks to this scheme.

A model for Wales

Kathryn said they are looking for a model in a Wales where a landlord provides accommodation such as a House of Multiple Occupancy where some space is available for destitute asylum seekers.

Find out more

To support the campaign to make Wales the world’s first ‘Nation of Sanctuary’ email rebecca@dpia.org.uk
To find out more on the scheme in Swansea where rooms are offered to destitute asylum seekers email share.tawe@gmail.com

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