A NEWPORT man who runs a charity helping integrate refugees and asylum seekers into their new communities has explained what Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban can expect if they come to Newport.

Mark Seymour, 52, is the founder of the Sanctuary, who welcomes refugees and asylum seekers and provide activities and classes to help them integrate into the community.

He has been working full-time at the Sanctuary for four years after teaching at a primary school in Cardiff for 25 years.

On the current crisis in Afghanistan, Mr Seymour said: “What if that was me right now in Kabul with my wife and daughter?

“What would I want for them?

“I would hope that wherever we had to flee to that we'd find a warm welcome.

“I think Welsh people are particularly warm and welcoming. The asylum seekers and refugees that I work with often comment on how they feel welcomed in Newport, how they feel that it is a new home for them.”

Mr Seymour believes that most people are supportive of offering aid to people fleeing war and persecution, but is very aware of a vocal minority that often base their opposition to offering help on things such as there not being enough accommodation for refugees.

“None of these people are coming to steal your jobs, they're fleeing from war and persecution, and they will be eager to work,” said Mr Seymour.

“No, they're not stealing your houses and they are not jumping the queue for accommodation.

“There is a housing crisis, but I think we need to look at our central government to resolve that and not blame somebody fleeing war and persecution.

“We are experiencing a labour shortage following Brexit, we actually need more employees and people to work – countries like Germany are recognising this.

“A lot of people coming from Afghanistan will have worked with us or for us, so they'll have good English and they'll presumably have a good set of skills.

“Ultimately, these people are looking for safety and are making sure their family and their kids are safe.”

Mr Seymour also believes that there is a narrative being perpetuated by some that the UK takes on too many refugees and asylum seekers.

“The UK does not receive a lot of asylum seekers and refugees, asylum applications are down by 20 per cent compared to previous years," he said.

“So we're not being flooded or overrun with people.”


The Sanctuary is based in Stow Hill next to the Bethel Community Church that burned down in 2018.

The group grew with support from the church and has more recently been working with support from charity the Gap .

Activities on offer include gardening, sewing classes, English classes and collecting and repairing old bikes that were destined to be scrapped, then giving them away.

The idea is to bring people together and help them settle in the community.

Once Bethel church is repaired, it will be used as space by the group for activities and community events.

To find out more about how you can help the Sanctuary, visit the Gap website here or donate directly to the Sanctuary here.