The biggest news stories for the beginning of April largely paint a picture of a system struggling - the result of poor decision making that has prioritised harmful rhetoric over sound policies. 

1. Welsh Government bus scheme has ended

The Welcome Ticket scheme, which provided free public transport for refugees, ended on the 31st March.

Many refugees come to the UK with very little and start from nothing. Under the scheme, refugees were able to access services, commute and rebuild their lives. The scheme provided crucial support for refugees to integrate into their new communities.

While the Welsh government is currently considering how to develop a new scheme, the scrapping of the scheme will certainly have a detrimental impact and is disappointing news for a Nation of Sanctuary.

Full article here

2. East Camp: South Wales military complex to be used to house Afghan refugees 

The East Camp military complex in St Athan, Vale of Glamorgan, will be used to house people who worked with the government in Afghanistan and are eligible for relocation under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP). Since the Taliban seized in August 2021, many are at risk of torture or murder due to their association with international forces.

The site can host 180 people and will house 50 people by the end of March. It is estimated that those on site will stay for 6-8 weeks whilst more settled accommodation is found and they are assisted with integration.

Despite promises from the government, many Afghans have been left in limbo, stranded in Afghanistan or languishing in hotels in Pakistan as they await relocation. In particular, the situation in Pakistan has deteriorated as the Pakistani government has taken a hardline approach and ordered ‘undocumented’ Afghan asylum seekers out of the country.

Full article here

3. Plans to move asylum seekers from hotels in tatters after NAO report & former RAF base to house asylum seekers is found to be contaminated 

The National Audit Office’s recent report has revealed that Rishi Sunak’s claims to find cheaper, alternative sites have not only been a failure, but that sites have been opened without developing safety plans for asylum seekers or consulting with local councils and communities.

“British taxpayers are forking out £6m a day to house illegal migrants in hotels and other accommodation,” Sunak told GB News. But it has now been reported that placing people seeking sanctuary in two former RAF bases and the Bibby Stockholm barge will cost £1.2bn-£46m more than keeping them in hotels. Also revealed was that these large-scale accommodation programme’s were rated ‘red’ by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority which means the “successful delivery of the programme to time, cost and quality appears to be unachievable”.

In further indicting news, military base RAF Scampton, which is due to receive asylum seekers in the coming weeks, has been found to contain ground contamination and UXO (unexploded ordnance) making it a potential risk to human health and unsuitable for use.

This has displayed a complete lack of understanding and arrogance by the Home Office as they have pursued poorly thought out policies – all at an eye-watering financial, and worse, human cost. 

Full article here and here.

4. Elite cyclist to lead London race while living in asylum hotel

Despite the challenges of living in an asylum hotel and surviving on £8.86 a week, Trhas Tesfay, a gold-winning cyclist from Ethiopia, will be leading the RideLondon race. Fleeing from Ethiopia, her passion for cycling keeps her going and allows her to “switch off from all my problems”.

Unlike other elite athletes, Trhas does not have access to training facilities, shares her Home Office hotel room with two other women and is fed airline-style meals. “Girls are not encouraged to ride bicycles in Ethiopia, but I have a rebellious spirit and that made me determined to continue with cycling in my country,” said Trhas. “I am determined to succeed and reach my ultimate dream of competing in the Tour de France.”

Full article here

5. Record 5,000 cross Channel to UK in first three months of 2024

The number of arrivals by small boats has exceeded the previous record for the equivalent period - 4,993 as of the 31st March compared with 4,548 previously. Sunak’s and Cleverly’s claim that they have successfully reduced the number of ‘illegal migrants’ by means of tougher legislation and international agreements - which includes funding the French authorities to participate in deadly and illegal pushback tactics. However, despite their posturing, what has remained clear is that these punitive measures and threats do not work. They only make conditions for people seeking sanctuary more treacherous as they take more and more drastic measures to claim asylum. Without safe routes, people will continue to put their lives at risk and the death toll will continue to rise.

Full article here