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Concern over closure of Ukraine welcome centres

[Press center7] time:2023-05-28 10:36:33 source:CNN (Cable News Network) author:Press center 1 click:81order

A cross-party Senedd committee says it is concerned at the planned closure of Welsh welcome centres for Ukrainian refugees.

The group of politicians questioned whether there is enough accommodation for the refugees to move to.

BBC Wales understands that ministers hope to move most Ukrainian refugees out of the centres within 18 months.

The Welsh government said it exceeded recommendations in the report.

Large numbers of refugees remain in the Welsh government's initial accommodation centres.

The report comes as the Welsh government announced it would step in to increase payments to people hosting refugees in Wales from £350 to £500.

Last month, the Welsh government announced that the welcome centres would eventually close.

They are part of the super-sponsor scheme, where ministers in Cardiff have supported 3,200 refugees - part of the 6,500 who have come to Wales overall.

Welcome centres have included hotels, holiday parks and university accommodation.

A total of 17 hotels are used for initial accommodation, as well as 10 other venues.

Officials say more than 1,500 have moved out, such as into the homes of sponsors and private rented accommodation. Currently 1,200 are left in initial accommodation.

Welsh government sources stress there is no intention to close all initial accommodation imminently, and that they aim to shut hotels first.

Earlier in March Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt reassured the Senedd that no refugees would be made homeless.

A sum of £40m has been set aside for the next financial year from April to support the scheme - with most going on accommodation - and £20m has been earmarked for the year after.

In a report, the local government committee said: "We are concerned by reports that the Welsh government will begin closing its welcome centres.

"We are surprised by such a step, given the positive feedback from the Welsh government and stakeholders on the role of the centres".

It said Ms Hutt "should provide an update to the Senedd as a matter of urgency to clarify the welsh government's position".

"We are particularly concerned as to whether there is sufficient accommodation available for Ukrainians to move into"" the report added.

The committee, said there had been no official announcement on the welcome centre plans, and also called for a "long-term plan" to ensure sufficient provision.

On Thursday the Welsh government announced it would provide £2.5m to allow councils to increase "thank you" payments to Ukrainian guests.

The UK government - which funds most of the money - plans to do the same but only for refugees who have been in the country for 12 months.

Another £2m will be given to Welsh councils to help more Ukrainians move into longer term accommodation.

Ms Hutt said the rise recognised the "enormity of their kindness" and the impact of the cost of living crisis on hosts.

"People from all over Wales have stepped up, showed true compassion and been there for families forced to flee their homes," Ms Hutt said.

John Griffiths, chairman of the committee, said: "We welcome the Welsh government's announcement that it will fund an increase in the 'thank you' payments to people in Wales hosting Ukrainian guests."

He added: "However, we're concerned at reports that the Welsh government will soon begin to close welcome centres for Ukrainian guests and whether there is sufficient availability of move-on accommodation to meet demand.

"The Committee's recent report on homelessness highlighted the already high number of people currently living in temporary accommodation in Wales, which is why we're calling on the Welsh Government to set out how it intends to ensure that those currently in welcome centres are moved to suitable accommodation."

A Welsh Government spokesman welcomed the report, adding: "We have today announced how we will continue to support people fleeing the war in Ukraine and support those already in Wales to move into longer-term accommodation with an additional £40m investment over the next financial year.

"Our approach meets, and in some cases exceeds, the recommendations in the report."

(editor-in-charge:Press center6)

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