Local organisations and individuals will join together today to launch a bid to make Wrexham a “town of sanctuary” that welcomes refugees and asylum seekers.
It features as part new action plan has been launched by the Welsh Government, which is aimed at tackling inequalities and poverty experienced by refugees and asylum seekers in Wales.
The ‘Nation of Sanctuary – Refugee and Asylum Seeker Plan’ highlights a range of targeted support including mental health services which address the difficult past experiences of those seeking sanctuary and introducing actions that safeguard and protect vulnerable individuals and children.
This afternoon community groups and charitable organisations in Wrexham are leading the way as part of Wales’ effort to establish itself as a “nation of sanctuary” with a campaign launch at Tŷ Pawb.
Organisations including the British Red Cross, Together Creating Communities, the Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham, Bawso, Family Friends and United to Assist Refugees UK have joined together to spearhead the project.
They will be joined at the event by Ian Lucas MP, Assembly Members Mark Isherwood and Michelle Brown and Wrexham Mayor Cllr Andy Williams, with all determined to show that Wrexham is a welcoming place for all people, including those who have been displaced because of war, persecution, food crises and environmental emergencies.
They also want to demonstrate the valuable and valued contributions made by refugees and asylum seekers in Wrexham and are asking people to make a pledge:
“We support the vision of Wrexham as a ‘Town of Sanctuary,’ welcoming those fleeing violence and persecution in their own countries, and recognise the contribution of refugees and people seeking sanctuary make to Wrexham.
“We are committed to taking practical steps to welcome and include diverse communities in our activities.
“We are willing for our organisation’s name to be added to a list of supporters of Town of Sanctuary, and we are willing to be contacted by Wrexham Town of Sanctuary with further ideas for how we can turn this pledge into practical action.”
In Wrexham, the British Red Cross supports refugees and asylum seekers by offering practical support for those settling into the area and assisting those who are destitute with help to meet their basic living needs.
It has also helped people seeking sanctuary in the area to connect with their new communities through volunteering, employment and English language classes.
British Red Cross refugee services manager for North Wales Kim Mills said: “Wrexham is a welcoming place and has become home to a number of people who have had to leave their homes because of crises such as conflict and persecution.
“The people of Wrexham have been brilliant in helping refugees and asylum seekers to settle in the area and we now want to build on that generosity by having Wrexham acknowledged as a town of sanctuary where the power of humanity and kindness is put into action as a matter of course.
“Refugees and asylum seekers from different parts of the world are already making positive contributions to the community whether that be 16-year-old Hasna Ali, who came to Wrexham as a refugee from Syria and sat for her GCSEs last year, or Godwin Akinyele who volunteers for British Heart Foundation.
“We are calling on as many people as possible to support the vision of Wrexham as a town of sanctuary.”
Godwin Akinyele, a married father of three children, lives in Wrexham after fleeing Nigeria in search of sanctuary.
The solicitor, who has a law degree from the University of London and a diploma in law from Ahadu Bello University in Nigeria, came to the UK after being persecuted for refusing to allow his daughters to be subjected to female genital mutilation.
He remembers his earliest days in Wrexham as a period of “no home, no friends, no right to work” and felt the right to a family life became tenuous as he “hopelessly waited for joint accommodation which wasn’t forthcoming.”
Living on just £10 a week plus a donated parcel of vegetables and fruit, Godwin said he watched his children and wife live together in a house with other mothers and children, sharing the same facilities, whilst waiting for a place of their own.
Godwin is delighted to be part of the movement to have Wrexham recognised as a town of sanctuary because, though he believes there is “room for improvement” in the asylum process, he has been made to feel welcome and at home in the town.
“Despite my hard experience in Wrexham during my first year of staying here, I can safely say I and my family have found home and safety in Wrexham,” explained Godwin.
“In the last two years, I have met people in churches, places of volunteering and through my children’s schools and playgroups. It has been mind-lifting.
“I consider it a big privilege to contribute to the laudable quest to make Wrexham a town of sanctuary.”
According to the Welsh Government, Welsh communities have already welcomed close to 1,000 Syrian refugees as part of the UK Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, and the Community Support scheme, along with many more asylum seekers from across the world.
Locally Wrexham Council has been involved in supporting and rehoming Syrian refugee families, with executive board members giving their backing to the scheme in both 2016 and 2017.
Lesley Griffiths AM, who is attending TCC’s event today, said: “Wales is a friendly nation and has a proud history of welcoming refugees.
“This renewed action plan will not only support those seeking sanctuary but also recognises the valuable skills and experiences refugees and asylum seekers can bring with them to enhance Welsh communities.”
“Making Wrexham a Town of Sanctuary is an admirable initiative that will help promote kindness and encourage working in partnership. It’s an endeavour is fully support and I hope the Welsh Government’s latest announcement will harness and solidify support for TCC’s campaign here in Wrexham.”
Mark Isherwood AM said: “As I have previously said in the Assembly, we need a measurable action plan for Wales to become a nation of sanctuary.
“The achievement of towns of sanctuary across Wales will be key to this.”
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