Key notes from meeting held at Salvation Army Centre, Wrexham Street, Mold
21 people attended, in addition to Rebecca Scott (City of Sanctuary Coordinator) and Synergy members. They included Delyn MP David Hanson, Sandra Anderson from Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team Wales (EYST), representatives of churches, charities and action groups, Theatr Clwyd and AURA Libraries & Leisure.
Attendees came from Mold, Buckley (AURA), Holywell, Flint and Colwyn Bay. There was firm commitment to start Synergy groups in Holywell and Flint, and some frustration expressed by a representative from Colwyn Bay’s Amnesty International group at the lack of support for refugees there.
How we got here: Liz Litherland
My first contact with the refugees and immigrants in Flintshire was via the Red Cross and the Language for Living project (a Foodbank initiated project to offer conversational English classes at no cost). The Red Cross manage the Syrian project in Wales and because of this I was invited along to the All Wales Refugee Coalition meeting. At the first one I was introduced to the City of Sanctuary Movement and the Welsh rep Rebecca Scott, who is here with us today. This organisation and its goals completely captivated me, as a Biblical principle for this century. Once I met Katja, Anne, and Maire, and brought Alice and Andy into the group, it was clearly time to roll this out in Mold and into Flintshire. Hence Synergy was born, via Facebook, as a core group to push forward. We launched on 19th June and have been rolling forward ever since.
Better together: Alice Swain
At our initial meeting, we developed a vision and set of values for Synergy. These set out our goals of making Flintshire a place of welcome and safety for those fleeing violence and persecution and engaging individuals and organisations to take practical steps to support refugees and asylum seekers. We agreed that we needed businesses, schools, churches, community facilities and medical practices and similar to sign up to the principles and practices of a Town of Sanctuary, and went on to develop a pledge document. The pledges incorporated some suggested ideas for practical action, and we intend that ‘pledged’ organisations would be identified by a Synergy sticker. At the Synergy launch meeting in June the Mayor of Mold signed the first pledges on behalf of Mold Town Council and the Daniel Owen Centre.
The way forward: Alice Swain
An individual pledge form is now also available and prior to the briefing meeting approximately 30 pledges in total have been signed. An education briefing pack will be sent to head teachers/principles in September, and a separate initiative to reach small businesses will be implemented. The initial response to Synergy in Mold has been very positive, and there has already been interest from groups in Holywell and Flint to set up Synergy groups there, too. A longer term goal is to achieve community sponsorship to bring in, settle and support a refugee family in Mold.
- Rebecca Scott – key points
What we can do in our own environment to make people welcome?
- Can be the smallest things that make a difference e.g. neighbours smiling
- Preparing people e.g. advising (reception) staff to be aware of people who may present with language barriers
- Implementing manageable solutions
- Training representatives among the refugee families to be able to speak and share their experiences
City of Sanctuary (CoS) UK & Wales will provide resources to help with campaigns. See also the range of resources available on the website.
Currently, asylum seekers do not have the right to work but this is being challenged.