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Meeting with Kirsty Williams MS

An example week—Other busy week has just passed [ 6-13th September 2020].

MONDAY Money was transferred on Monday to allow for more phone top ups in Swansea,  we continued detailed discussions via email and phone about travel passes for some people seeking asylum in Swansea [ We know that we can never help everyone and that this won’t be equitable but we accept first come first served based upon our criteria] , several offers of clothing or bedding  that we regretfully have to decline due to lack of places to send them. An offer of selling some donations  to raise monies will need to be discussed. An enquiry about starting a ‘conversation’ about what rural groups can do to help support people seeking sanctuary. Chair’s report sent out to prepare people for discussions at Wednesday’s meeting.

TUESDAY Further discussions and applications for travel passes. A request about possible ‘Lockdown Buddies’ via what’s app  will need discussion and a policy/guidance about how best to do this. Response from MP about our concerns on Family reunion – will have to await her reply about publishing it on our website. Response from our MS about issues with Clearsprings Asylum accommodation and shared rooms.  Phone call from Support staff of MS about a meeting on Friday if we are able to meet up. Check up about further Accommodation for M [ a destitute asylum seeker]  who has been staying in our area since lockdown to avoid having to be in dormitory accommodation. Register  with Charities aid foundation. Have agreement from Hardship group and so our Treasurer pays  for course books to allow a man to start an accountancy course and  for electrical equipment for a man  starting on an electrical  engineering course.

some bikes going to Swansea last month

WEDNESDAY Chair confirms that she can be at the meeting with MS. Friendly solicitor asks for papers with a view to helping someone whose case seems to have stalled. Clothes donor agrees to transfer clothes to potential stall. Treasurer picks up donation buckets  from Drovers Cycles and The Mill Talgarth. Further requests from individuals for bikes in Swansea and after discussion with SASS  it is agreed that   they will  talk to  ReCycle about how people in need of bikes can get them during this period when their usual plan of having people volunteer to mend bikes is not feasible.

Meeting via Zoom with some supporters and discuss ways of showing welcome and agree actions taken in last week. Discussion about what we could do to help the unfortunate people of Moria camp in Greece and agree to send a donation. Spend the rest of the  evening typing up minutes and correspondence. Thank you  email from A N

‘Hello Dear, I’m A.N .I’m asylum seeker and student In electrical installation course. Actually I received the tools from your organisation,  I’m so grateful for your support and help.Thank you so much with the best wishes. And how can i have bicycle ? If it’s possible tell me about it please. ‘



donations for UID

THURSDAY Checked with participants at yesterday’s meeting about a decision on sending money to  both Safe Passage and Help Refugees [Choose Love] .  Further requests for help with equipment for courses. Trip to Swansea to deliver donated laptops to Tom of Swansea asylum seekers support and to deliver jams, t shirts, some dictionaries and 50 beautiful handmade facemarks to David of Unity in Diversity.  Draft  and send [ after agreement]  a letter to Mp about  the need for  urgent help resettle children from the Moria camp. Follow up points from MPs response to previous enquiry. Prepare for meeting on Friday by checking with contacts in Newport and Swansea about issues. .

FRIDAY  Pay for 7 bus passes which were picked up  and distributed by Kelly who also processes the phone top ups. Discussion about possible Christmas campaign and some other fundraising ideas.Hear that City of Sanctuary will pay for a laptop for  someone on the Sanctuary in Politics course. Email confirmation that if we pay for some parts then bikes can be made available to 2 men together with locks and helmets. Agree to meet someone recently granted asylum to show household goods we ‘ve been donated during lockdown that might help with furnishing the house when they have one.

Meeting with MS Kirsty Williams to discuss some of the concerns that people seeking asylum and their supporters have shared with us over the last few months.

Below is  the prompt list at we used to structure our conversation and  Kirsty promised to investigate. where appropriate and asked us to check out details of some of the other items

We  were able to thank her for her  help with securing official permission to use the  Holiday cottage at  the start of lockdown and her continued support, advice and  also provision of a drop off point since our inception. We presented her with 2 of the handmade masks that we hope might be good to wear in schools.

These issues below are ones that have been raised by people seeking asylum or their supporters or from observation.

Education related matters- It seems most people value education very highly  as most  concerns we have heard about relate to this. 

 We are fortunate in Wales that all people can access the NHS and the concerns expressed  about health are about lack of  use of interpretation services and  poor access to Mental Health Services.

A concern raised in Newport was about the advertising about Covid19 actions. It is all very well having TV , Radio, newspapers and social media campaigns but many people seeking asylum  are not accessing any of these. Written information in the main community languages is helpful except that It was quite slow to be produced and  many Kurds are not able to read Kurdish. A video has been made to assist them.

1 IT –  a Equipment  many people don’t have equipment and may only have a single smart phone in the family .Schools loaned equipment { great idea]  but  some cities were quite slow to distribute and everything was taken back at the end of the summer term.  HBTSR have been supplying laptops and phones and digital tablets to help with education. EG bought 7 reconditioned  laptops recently  mainly for adult learners and a charitable funded project  for people seeking asylum in Swansea spent over £3000 on digital kit since June.

 Kirsty commented that she hoped more equipment will be available for children without access and also extend the scheme  for 16-19 year olds in college  and then try to extend to older students in need

B Data Poverty.  Asylum accommodation homes do not have WIFI and although many city centres now have  free WIFI people were encouraged to stay at home and libraries and drop in centres where people often go  to use WIFI were closed.

We have supplied many phone top ups [ over £2000 so far since early May] But this has still not allowed people to access all their lessons.  We offered to  pay for a trial  of MIFI  in Swansea but could not find anyone with enough time to organise  a trial of this. Has been tried  semi successfully in Newport. [ issues with the number of people wanting to use devices at the same time.] – Can the Senedd ask the Home office about WIFI supply in their contract for housing?

2 Planning for any future closure – can  schools  be asked to offer  regular online sessions  to replace day school?

Kirsty Commented that she hoped that policy and procedures are now available to support  synchronous learning.

3 Additional support for those with language barriers – no longer any one to one support in  many schools in Swansea. 

4 School Uniforms – Recognise and value that a  grant is available  for some school years but we have been asked for financial support for children who are in other years who  have grown and also  for children of parents who have NRPF. Newport mentioned particular issue with people who have been dispersed to Cities and do not have money for high school uniform [ may cost about £250 for the full outfit]. They may be given lost property but it can be very embarrassing for the child.

5 Free School Meals – Children of Parents who have NRPF are not eligible. These  are often very impoverished families.

Councils have been encouraged to use discretionary grants for this and our contacts say that they have  and that during lockdown it was good that vouchers or direct payments were made  to families of eligible children both for school term and holidays. Kirsty hopes that this will also be the case for October Half term.

6 Transport to schools for occasional pupils-  either accessing a school outside catchment as  the family have been moved or when a child has mobility issues.

7 Transport to college –  We  paid for 9-10 bus passes last year and already have requests for 8 this year. At £300 each…might Wales consider a scheme with a bus company like  that offered in Bristol ?


8  Course equipment is often needed and we have supplied some but are there other sources of help? Eg Accountancy books,  electrical course equipment , Health and Beauty courses equipment.

Also  Need to pay  for DBS checks to start Child care course?

 We are aware of the help that RefuAid provides rapid help for people wanting to access higher education  or employment but not aware of many other sources of help that are quickly available. Ruth Hayman trust needs 3 months notice or more.

Kirsty agrees to ask staff to check upon these issues

9 REACH [ Wales  funded project to help everyone in Wales wanting ESOL.]  Issues raised by Newport are  that the people running this seem to have little experience  of the needs of people seeking asylum.  Bearing in mind that many people don’t have wifi , may not have anything other than a phone and may not write English, it seems hard that the application forms need to be printed,  people may be asked to email when they can’t write English, the online assessments require data or wifi  to be able to participate and most of the documentation is in English and none of the usual community languages. Newport Sanctuary are providing WIFI, Loaning Laptops, printing forms  so that people can access the REACH assessments  and providing help to complete. People are still having to travel to access online assessments  and with new restrictions being imposed to avoid COVID19 this may become more problematic.

Kirsty agrees to explore this further

11 Could people seeking asylum apply for Welsh Government learning grants to support the financial costs of studying?

Kirsty wearing our Winnie the Pooh masks

Concerns  that require action by Parliament

 But delighted to see Solutions  suggested in here would be ideal for  people like our friend M.

Housing – The quality of some of the housing stock used to house people seeking asylum, [ with no local authority oversight. ] 

Enforced sharing of rooms despite saying they will not offer this now…

The move on time after being granted refugee status is too short .The need to accommodate people who are homeless or have NRPF after lockdown ends. The right to work for people seeking asylum –

Use of Detention and  lack of time limits  and especially its use during lockdown- And the need to free children from detention centres.

Family reunion and lack of safe routes to seek asylum –

The language used about people seeking asylum and trying to cross the channel. The recent returns of people to Europe who  may have valid claims.  The use of destitution  when people have been refused asylum.The derisory increase in the asylum support grant. The delays in processing asylum applications.


Decline further donations of clothing. Show T the household goods we have saved and all seem appropriate. And take a breath before next week….


from Z Hi ,

to all the angels in Brecon asylum seekers and refugees support groups.

My name is Z . Also I am a volunteer for child play groups in st james church  (SASS ). I wanted to send you my appreciation and how greatfull I am to you all . I could never ever  do my 2years of diploma beauty thearapy level 2& level 3 without your support. I fell so blessed myself to live in walse. God bless you all and give ability to help more people in need .I hope I could give back anything for this lovely community in future. The reason i says angels in the very 1st line only because you guys are angles in so many people’s life who can’t think doing study & Many things without your support .
Many thanks  to all once again
from I

Dear sir/madam,

I received my bus pass today.I would like to thank you everyone who involved to get it for me and really appreciate it.
Thank you.
From Y
Thank you so much for you help me bus pass my God bless you 🙏