"I used to be someone" A National Assembly for Wales short report on refugees and asylum seekers in Wales

The world is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.

In 2016, one in every 113 humans was either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. In all, there are more forcibly displaced people today than the populations of the United Kingdom, France or Italy, which is more people than at any other time in our history.

Why is this important?

People who survive to reach the UK, including unaccompanied children, are likely to have experienced traumatic events, which leave lasting psychological scars. And at this vulnerable time in their lives, they face a fresh set of major challenges.

A phrase often used by refugees and asylum seekers is:

“I used to be someone.”

Although the Welsh Government does not have control over asylum and immigration, it does have a responsibility to support asylum seekers and refugees with housing, access to health and education, and finding jobs. Refugees, asylum seekers and unaccompanied children coming to the UK have specific needs for settling into their new lives, and becoming a full part of our communities.

We wanted to find out about the support available for refugees and asylum seekers in Wales, and whether the Welsh Government’s approach was working.

What the Committee did

The Committee visited Cardiff and Swansea, as well as Glasgow and Edinburgh, to find out more about people’s experiences and what other governments are doing. We also found examples of good practice across Wales, and it is clear that in many places both public services and the third sector are working effectively to help refugees and asylum seekers to adjust to life in our communities and to get the support they need.

"Sanctuary in the Senedd" Event and visit to Scotland.

We also heard evidence that the Welsh Government needs to do more in a number of areas.

Refugees and asylum seekers in Wales

In Wales, there are currently 2,872 asylum seekers, mainly living in Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Wrexham. It is not known how many refugees are living in Wales, because when people are granted refugee status they are not required to live in a particular area and may move elsewhere.

397 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Wales since 2015 in response to the displacement from the Syrian civil war, compared to 1,295 in Scotland.

What is the difference between refugees and asylum seekers?

  • A refugee is a person who has fled armed conflict or persecution, and who is recognised as needing international protection because it is too dangerous for them to return home.
  • An asylum seeker is a person who has lodged an application for protection on the basis of the UN Refugee Convention or Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), and is awaiting a decision from the UK Home Office.

Making a difference

The Committee’s work has already made an impact, even before finalising this report, for example:

  • The Welsh Government’s Operations Board remit has been expanded beyond the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Programme to cover all refugees and asylum seekers, to help overcome the two-tier asylum system which stakeholders told us had emerged; and
  • There is positive engagement between the provider of asylum accommodation in Wales, and organisations who support asylum seekers, to address serious concerns about the quality of housing.


We think the Welsh Government should:

  1. Create a Wales-wide publicity campaign that emphasises the benefits of immigration to Welsh society and addresses myths and inaccuracies about refugees and asylum seekers;
  2. Consider extending concessionary transport schemes to refugees and asylum seekers, including children, to give them better access to education, employment, and volunteering opportunities;
  3. Make sure there are enough English lessons for refugees and asylum seekers, ensure that people are offered appropriate classes as soon as possible following their arrival in Wales, and address any barriers to accessing classes;
  4. Make sure that asylum seekers’ landlords are covered by a registration scheme. The scheme should make sure that local authorities conduct in-depth inspections of properties and report regularly on their standards;
  5. Through the new Refugee, Asylum Seeker and Migrant Inclusion Service, make sure that there is: enough legal advice; regular reminders about the importance of health screenings as well as help for people to attend them, and mental health support;
  6. Do more to help refugees and asylum seekers access education and employment by: promoting the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales as widely as possible, both to refugees and asylum seekers and service providers; requiring Welsh universities to treat refugees as home students; and creating more opportunities for public sector internships and volunteering opportunities designed for refugees and asylum seekers.
  7. Establish a Guardianship service, as part of reaffirming Wales’ commitment to welcome unaccompanied asylum seeking children, and make sure they are given the minimum standard of mental health support for trauma.


Make Wales the world’s first ‘Nation of Sanctuary’.

Chair's Foreword:

“We were pleased to see such commitment and passion from people supporting refugees and asylum seekers in our cities. Seeking directly with refugees and asylum seekers, we were very grateful to everyone involved in the visits who welcomed us so warmly and spoke to us so candidly about the challenges they faced.
In making our final recommendation, we considered and endorsed the Seven Steps to Sanctuary, which were produced by the Welsh Refugee Coalition and had widespread support among the stakeholders with whom we engaged. I hope that the Welsh Government, local authorities and third sector partners, as well as communities throughout Wales can take the Seven Steps together so that we become the world’s first Nation of Sanctuary”.

You can read the Committee's full report at http://www.senedd.assembly.wales/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=16180

You can keep up to date with the Committee's work by following us on Twitter: @SeneddELGC


Created with images by stokpic - "hands world map" • Dai Lygad - "Sunset in Penarth ... Machlud yr haul ym Mhenarth" • edgarwinkler - "un flag internationality" • fsHH - "refugee afghan forest" • Ruth and Dave - "Senedd ceiling"

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