Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
I wish to update Assembly Members following the second meeting of the Syrian Refugee Taskforce on 10 February.
The unfolding humanitarian crisis is continuing to worsen, most recently we have heard about people and families fleeing their homes in Aleppo. I continue to speak with the Minister for Syrian Refugees and I have re-affirmed Wales will continue to play a full part in supporting the commitment to resettle 20,000 refugees across the UK.
Wales has welcomed around 50 Syrian refugees in Caerphilly, Ceredigion, Torfaen and Neath Port-Talbot. I have commended these Local Authorities for putting Wales at the forefront of resettling people in desperate need. This will act as a springboard ahead of greater participation across Local Authorities throughout Wales. I have been informed a number of other Local Authorities are preparing to welcome Syrian refugees in the Spring. It is vital Local Authorities manage their own communications around participation and make their own decisions about whether to share with the public any information about numbers or dates of arrival.
There continues to be a significant level of political and local support for the Programme across Wales. Local Authorities are continuing to hold positive discussions with the UK Government to ensure processes are streamlined and sustainable in order to scale up the levels of support Wales can offer. I am keen to find out about any barriers to participating in the Programme and have informed the Minister for Syrian Refugees I am particularly concerned about the lack of funding for healthcare after the first year. I will also ask for greater clarity about how social care funding can be used by Local Authorities. The UK Government wants to move to a more sustainable regional approach from April and my officials have been working closely with the Welsh Local Government Association on a sustainable Welsh model to support regional working. I support this approach which will enable the sharing of good practice across Wales, however, I have been clear to the UK Government this should be funded appropriately.
Communities across Wales have continued to be generous in their support for refugees. I am keen to be able to use this support when we have more information on the UK Government’s Community Sponsorship Scheme. I have been informed there will be a consultation on this and I will seek cross sector advice to ensure any new innovative model can operate effectively across Wales. Clearly, there is a need to be mindful about sustainability and safeguarding issues when support is provided. I would suggest any members of the public considering offering help in the meantime should contact their Local Authorities.
I would like to confirm my support for asylum seekers and refugees who are living in Wales but who are not part of the Syrian Resettlement Programme. We take the view integration begins on day one of arrival and I am continuing to fund the Welsh Refugee Council, Trinity Project and British Red Cross to support asylum seekers and refugees across Wales. Our commitment to welcome and support asylum seekers and refugees will be reaffirmed through the Asylum Seeker and Refugee Delivery Plan, which will be launched in March.
I have recently announced continued funding for eight Community Cohesion Co-ordinators. They are not only playing a role in supporting Local Authorities through the implementation of the Programme, but are also working in key areas, such as tackling hate crime, tackling poverty and immigration. I will be launching a new National Plan during March to continue our commitment to support cohesive communities, which is now enshrined in legislation through the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015.
Following Assembly Questions on 3 February, I agreed to update Assembly Members following the UK Government’s announcement to resettle unaccompanied refugee children from conflict zones. A senior Welsh Government Official attended a roundtable discussion hosted by the UK Government last week to obtain further details on the proposed scheme and I have spoken with the Minister for Syrian Refugees, Richard Harrington MP to consider the next steps. I intend to take immediate action on this issue and the Welsh Government’s Taskforce has agreed to establish a specific Sub-Group of the Operations Board to begin planning and assessing skills and capacity across Wales.