MS expresses “deep dismay” over “time limit to welcome”

Plaid Cymru criticises Labour funding withdrawal of Welcome Ticket for those seeking sanctuary

This is a photograph of the inside of a bus, taken from the back seat and looking down the centre aisle towards the door. The focus is on the nearest seats, with the furthest seats out of focus.

The Welcome Ticket, which enabled all refugees, including Ukrainians and Afghans, to travel for free on public transport in Wales, will be withdrawn from 1st April 2024.

Sioned Williams MS, Plaid Cymru spokesperson on Social Justice, has expressed “deep dismay” that the funding has been cut by the Labour Welsh Government for a service which others have called “vital”.

A spokesperson from Swansea City of Sanctuary has said that the scheme has made a “real difference for those who are beginning to build their lives in Wales” and added that they “worry that the gap in this scheme will worsen issues of discrimination and exclusion.”

Swansea was Wales’ first city to be declared a City of Sanctuary, and only the second in the UK.

While Welsh Government has said they are reviewing the scheme with an “intention to establish a new phase of the Welcome Ticket scheme in 2024” there are, as yet, no details on what this scheme might entail, or when it might transpire.

Sioned Williams MS, Plaid Cymru spokesperson for Social Justice, and Member of Senedd for South Wales West, said:

“Providing free public transport to those who have had to flee war and famine, might be a small gesture, but it’s of real value to those who have started to try and rebuild their lives here in Wales.

“The people of Swansea have shown how supportive and welcoming they are to those seeking sanctuary and the removal of this scheme will be a particular blow to those involved in the City of Sanctuary work.

“It’s so important that there isn’t a gap in provision, but as we get nearer the final date with no further news from Welsh Government, there’s a real fear that those seeking sanctuary in Wales will be left stranded. If we claim to be a Nation of Sanctuary, we must put our money where our mouth is. There shouldn’t be a limit on this particular Welcome.”

A spokesperson for Swansea City of Sanctuary said:

“The Welcome Ticket scheme has been vital in providing essential mobility for refugees in Wales, offering people the means to access vital services, employment opportunities, and community engagement. It has made a real difference for those who are beginning to build their lives in Wales. We worry that the gap in this scheme will worsen issues of discrimination and exclusion.

“Any transition between schemes must prioritise the continuity of support for refugees, and address the underlying issues that have arisen during the implementation of the Welcome Ticket scheme. This is an opportunity to standardise free travel for refugees, and make it such that there is no ambiguity for bus drivers.

“Not only this, but we strongly advocate for extending free transport rights to people seeking asylum. Asylum seekers, who are without recourse to public funds and have no right to work, face significant barriers to mobility and integration. Providing free transport for both refugees and asylum seekers represents a tangible step towards realising Wales’ vision as a Nation of Sanctuary.”

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