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Welsh Conservatives: Wales needs to prepare properly for Ukrainian refugees

THE LEADER of the Conservatives in Wales, Andrew RT Davies says that The Welsh Labour Government should prepare properly for Ukrainian refugees “or risk letting them down, and letting Wales down.”

Writing in The Sunday Times today (Mar 6), he said that there are still Afghan refugees “living in Hotels”, and that without suitable housing their well-being will deteriorate. He does not want, he says, the same happening for those from Ukraine.

Andrew RT Davies wrote: “I first learned Putin’s forces were invading Ukraine in the very early hours of the morning on February 24th when, at about 4:30am, a business contact of mine who lives in Ukraine WhatsApped me that he was having to shut down operations because Russian shells were landing around his home.

Concerned: Andrew RT Davies (Image WAG handout)

“It was a very personal and human way to be introduced to a conflict emerging on the other side of Europe. My friend is now safe and well, having sought refuge in Moldova with his family, but the life he knew is over.

“It goes without saying we are all appalled by the reports and pictures we are now seeing daily.

“The streets people grew up on are becoming battlefields. Friends and family members, who instead of picking up their knives and forks at dinner together, are picking up weapons to defend their nation and self-determination.

“But we must differentiate between the Russian people and its so-called leadership. This is not the Russian people’s war, this is Vladimir Putin’s war – we see that from the protests that have erupted in Russia and the mass arrests that followed. A great number of people in Russia are as disgusted by the actions of that man as we are.

“While there have been some signs that Putin’s invasion isn’t going entirely to plan, we cannot ignore the size of the Russian army and the brutality to which the botoxed madman in the Kremlin is willing to resort. We’ve seen this gruesome playbook before in Chechnya and Syria.

Residents await evacuation in eastern Ukraine. (Image PA)

“So we must be ready to rise to the challenge of the enormous and growing humanitarian crisis, and I am determined that Wales plays its full part in accepting refugees from Ukraine.

“After all, Wales has form on this. During the Spanish Civil War thousands of Basque children came to Wales when Francisco Franco ordered the bombing of the Basque Country, for just one example.

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“But it is important that we have the resources in place to be able to properly welcome and support people who come. We need to make sure we have the right amount of school places, appropriate health provision, and sufficient housing, to name only a few things.

“The British Government has pledged £20 million to match donations to an appeal launched by the Disasters Emergency Committee to help refugees and those caught up in Putin’s war in Ukraine, and the Welsh Government has pledged £4 million.

“It is vital we understand what resources we currently have, what resources we can offer by way of further funding for health boards, local authorities and other bodies, and we need to understand the scale of what we are expecting.

“We are already dealing with 1 in 5 Welsh people on a waiting list, lost time in education because of the pandemic, and a housing crisis due to a lack of new builds here in Wales.

“Without understanding these things Labour ministers run the risk of succeeding in warm words and hot air while failing to meet the needs of vulnerable people.

“When I questioned the First Minister earlier this week, he didn’t have an estimate of how many refugees to expect. When my colleague questioned the Education Minister on capacity to school refugee children here, there was no detail then either.

“I don’t say this to embarrass the Labour administration but to be a responsible opposition at this difficult time to ensure their generous rhetoric is matched by action. We also need to make sure that public bodies in Wales withdraw any money invested in Russia though pension funds and other schemes.

“I am proud of the role Wales has played in welcoming refugees from Afghanistan as the Taliban swept to power in their country. Indeed, a number of Afghan refugees stayed just next to the Welsh Parliament in Cardiff Bay upon arrival, playing cricket in the street and acclimatising to our somewhat colder weather.

“However, we do read stories of some Afghan refugees still living in hotels. Without suitable and sustainable housing, their well-being will deteriorate.

“So, while I am confident that refugees from warzones and countries under cruel regimes are grateful to be safe, I think we can and must do better.

“Wales has a rich and proud history of accepting refugees and evacuees from conflict. It’s time to extend that rich and proud history.

“However, if we fail to plan and prepare to welcome them properly, it won’t just be them we are letting down, but the people of Wales as well.”