Responding to the Statement by the Chair of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee on the Committee's Forward Work Programme including Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Unaccompanied Children, Mr Isherwood, who is hosting and sponsoring the ‘Sanctuary in the Senedd’ event with the Welsh Refugee Council on 7 December, when Members can meet asylum seekers and refugees from across Wales, spoke on the issue in the Assembly.
He said: “Obviously, references have been made to the horribly named Jungle camp in Calais and the fact that that’s closing down.
"The Children’s Commissioner for England has previously said that about 300 children there, from countries like Syria and Afghanistan, will come to the UK.
"We know that, last week, British and French officials began registering unaccompanied children in the camp who are hoping to join relatives in Britain. Do you have any indication if those figures are accurate or can you perhaps drill down to try and establish the number? If it is 300, or more, what proportion will be in Wales?
“Similarly, the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, has said the UK Government is, to quote, ‘moving quickly’. She wants as many children as possible brought to the UK before the camp is shut. But the charity Safe Passage UK, which is working with the UK Government, says it’s not yet been shown any operational plans setting out how the children will be transferred. Again, could you look at the operational plans as they develop, not only with the UK Government but with the Welsh Government, in terms of the settlement here?
“I have represented people, with a number of councils, and there have been different approaches, but above all, the key points raised are, for example, in Wrexham—which has already agreed to accept people (under the Syrian Refugee Settlement Scheme) —the need for language support and, in Flintshire, for full language and curriculum support in schools, supporting integration of families into local communities, as well as the hard-end issues such as housing and health.”
Mr Isherwood added: “As a Wrexham Council representative said, we have a proud tradition of welcoming people in need, but as Gwynedd Council, which has already welcomed people from Syria, have told me, they must be sure before accepting unaccompanied children that we are able to provide a stable and sustainable environment, and as Flintshire Council stated: “the bigger challenges will be to integrate families into local communities, remembering that people will be mentally and emotionally scarred by their experience and will be in need of empathy and support.”