A Nation of Sanctuary – what an idea. A whole country where people seeking sanctuary find people who welcome them, understand why they are here, support them and most important of all, actively include them as participants, volunteers and members, wherever they go. This is our vision for Wales.
We were delighted in April that a National Assembly for Wales committee looking into refugees and asylum seekers in Wales recommended that the Welsh Government should “take the Seven Steps to make Wales a Nation of Sanctuary”. Judging by the number of people who came to the Wales: Nation of Sanctuary conference last week, there is widespread support for the vision of Wales as a Nation of Sanctuary from a range of sectors, all over the country.
What would a Nation of Sanctuary look like in reality? How will we know we have achieved this ambitious goal? The Wales: Nation of Sanctuary conference brought together 140 people to tackle these questions. Our theme was ‘now is the time for action’.
The NAfW recommendation that Welsh Government take steps to make Wales a Nation of Sanctuary is the last in a list of 19 fantastic recommendations that will all move Wales towards being a Nation of Sanctuary and improve lives of asylum seekers and refugees in Wales. Local groups are now lobbying Welsh Government to act upon these recommendations. They include recommendations around healthcare, education, transport and community cohesion. Please write to your local Assembly Member to ask them to ensure Welsh Government support all these recommendations.
Of course, our vision of Wales as the world’s first Nation of Sanctuary cannot be achieved by top-down Welsh Government initiatives alone. Each of us has our part to play. The conference discussed what needs to be done by local authorities, the wider public sector, including health and education institutions, the third and private sectors, as well as local communities and supportive individuals. The room was a-buzz with ideas, conversations between new acquaintances leading to innovative suggestions. Flipchart paper was in short supply as discussion groups filled sheets with tangible actions that will bring us closer to being a Nation of Sanctuary.
You can join in this conversation by contributing to our Sensemaker tool, click here. We are using this tool to gather stories of welcome. These will help us create a picture of what works in Wales, and gather information that can be shared with others in different parts of the country.
We will be writing up these ideas to send out to conference delegates, along with an invitation to join a Nation of Sanctuary steering group in the near future. The conference was a call to action for all of us, in whatever sector, from whatever background of part of Wales. We’ve got a rather large to-do list ahead of us! If you were unable to attend the conference but want to be involved, please contact [email protected] – let’s join together to make Wales the world’s first Nation of Sanctuary!