- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
“Hay, Brecon and Talgarth sanctuary group represent the best of our nation’s generosity and goodwill.” That is the view of Joyce Watson AM.
The Labour member for Mid and West Wales made the comment during a debate on refugee and asylum seeker support services.
Around two thousand people in Wales are seeking asylum, many of whom have fled war-torn countries. A report by the Assembly’s Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee calls for more help for those suffering with trauma and loneliness.
Speaking in the Senedd on Wednesday’s (21 June), Mrs Watson appraised collaboration between professional services and volunteer groups. She said:
“Groups like the Hay, Brecon and Talgarth refugee support group provided real insight into what is happening on the ground, and one of the issues that they did identify was a perceived disconnect between those voluntary groups and the professional-led services.
“I think the Powys group represents the best of our nation’s generosity and goodwill, and while we, of course, need professional co-ordination, it would be wrong to squash grass-roots enthusiasm with bureaucratic heavy-handedness. And I’d like to put on record my thanks to every volunteer who gives help and support to the most vulnerable people in society and a warm, Welsh welcome.”
Earlier in the session, Joyce, who sat on the inquiry, severely criticised the conduct of UKIP AM and fellow committee member, Gareth Bennett AM.
In April, the regional member for South Wales Central published an alternative report accusing the committee of encouraging asylum seekers and refugees to come to Wales. Mrs Watson said Mr Bennett’s report was “light on evidence, but heavy on prejudice”:
“I want to actually disassociate myself, as I’m sure everybody else here of a reasonable mind would do, from the comments of the previous speaker. But, however, as is set out in the report’s introduction, this was the committee’s first major inquiry, and it was undertaken at a time when we’re experiencing the worst global refugee crisis since the second world war. And politically, it was launched in the months after the Brexit vote, and the refugee crisis, without a doubt, shaped some of those Brexit arguments around the EU’s stability and sustainability. But more widely, it appeared at that time that nationalist movements were sweeping the continent, though following recent defeats for Eurosceptic populists at elections in France, Austria and Netherlands, and reverses in Finland, Italy and Germany, maybe the tide has turned.
“Nevertheless, at the time, there were people who argued that the committee should not prioritise the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in Wales. My UKIP committee colleague refused to endorse the report, despite having not raised any objections whatsoever during the actual inquiry. But I’ll move on from that. I, for one, am proud of this report, and I think it reflects well on this Assembly and on Wales that we undertook this work. In the same vein, I think that Gareth Bennett’s alternative paper, titled ‘Wales’ Refugee Problem’, reflects poorly on his party—light on evidence, but heavy on prejudice.”
The south Powys charity is part of City of Sanctuary, a national movement with over 60 local groups, committed to developing a ‘culture of welcome and inclusion’ for people seeking sanctuary in the UK.
For more information about Hay, Brecon and Talgarth sanctuary, visit http://hbtsr.org.uk/