WITH the ongoing refugee crisis showing no signs of slowing, AMs have called for Wales to become “a nation of sanctuary” for those fleeing the conflict in Syria.

In September Prime Minister David Cameron announced the UK would welcome 20,000 refugees fleeing the country by 2020, and around 50 of these have already been settled in Caerphilly, Torfaen and elsewhere in Wales.

Speaking in the Senedd on Wednesday, January 13, Liberal Democrat AM for Mid and West Wales William Powell called on the Assembly to affirm its commitment to helping resolve the crisis by branding the country ‘a nation of sanctuary’.

Saying welcoming refugees was “very much part of the story” of Wales’ history and culture, Mr Powell said: “In the 19th century Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Russia and eastern Europe settled in our main city ports of Cardiff, Newport and Swansea.

“Similarly, Wales became a safe haven for Jews fleeing Nazi persecution and migrants from across Europe and beyond have added to the rich diversity of our communities.”

Saying “we need more than warm words”, he warned the crisis was likely to worsen as winter dragged on.

Labour AM for Caerphilly Jeff Cuthbert said he had been “heartened” by the response to the crisis by Welsh people who had organised fundraising events and collections of clothing to send to Syria.

“Wales has a long tradition of welcoming refugees during times of war and strife,” he said.

“Wales must continue to do this.

“I am pleased Caerphilly County Borough Council has taken the lead by becoming one of the first Welsh local authorities to accept a small number of Syrian refugees.”

Although communities minister Lesley Griffiths said immigration is not a devolved issue, she said she was proud to see Caerphilly and Torfaen, along with Ceredigion and Neath Port Talbot, becoming among the first in the UK to welcome refugees.

“We do have a very proud history of offering shelter to refugees and that’s been very much reflected in the warm response of people across Wales towards this crisis,” she said.

She added the UK Government had assured every refugee allowed into the UK had been thoroughly vetted to ensure they were genuinely in need to sanctuary and the Welsh Government was working alongside police and other agencies to avoid them becoming victims of racial or religiously-motivated hate crime.

“Tackling hate crime is a key element in making wales a true nation of sanctuary,” she said.

“No one should be in fear of hate crime because of the colour of their skin, their faith or their immigration status.”

The Labour AM for Wrexham added making Wales a ‘nation of sanctuary’ did not just rely on financial or legislative action.

She said: “If you don’t have the money to donate or the clothing to donate just be friendly, be nice, be kind to people who are settling in our country.”