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‘This is not enough!’ Aberaid petitions Council

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Aberaid members: Lucy Hancock and Lindsey Gaunt

Aberaid members: Lucy Hancock and Lindsey Gaunt

WHEN CEREDIGION county council announced that it would accept ten more refugees this year, the network Aberaid felt that the county could do more and launched a new petition. The petition states: ‘This is not enough!’ 

Ceredigion is a county of only 76,000 people occupying 1,790 square kilometres, and Aberaid argue that we have the resources and room to accommodate more than ten people per year when the refugee crisis is so huge and acute.

Aberaid record that more than 11 million people have been displaced from their homes in Syria, and at least half of these are children. 6.6 million people are internally displaced. Five million people are refugees seeking safety and shelter in other countries. Millions of people living in the refugee camps across the Middle East are living in complete squalor with very little food, clothing, warm bedding or access to education. Between two and three million Syrian children are currently not attending any form of school. There are 2.7 million refugees in Turkey, 1.8 million in Lebanon, 800,000 in Jordan, 250,000 in Iraq and 120,000 in Egypt.

Record numbers of people claimed asylum last year in Europe, with more than a million refugees arriving in 2015, around half of them from Syria. Germany received almost 600,000 refugees in 2015, with more arriving every day. Hungary has accepted 178,000 refugees. Greece is sheltering at least 65,000, with thousands more arriving on its islands’ beaches each week. More than 3,770 people drowned last year in the Mediterranean trying to find safety. Wales has pledged to take 1,500 Syrian refugees in the next few years but, as yet, only a handful have actually arrived. Aberaid contest that Ceredigion has the capacity to take at least 50 refugees each year until 2020.

Aberaid’s Julie Makin told the Herald: “A recent Channel 4 News feature showed how the whole community has pulled together to welcome the 11 refugees who arrived in Ceredigion late last year. Our Council was really proactive in their response to the crisis, and led the way in Wales. Although most mainstream media seems to have moved on, the refugee crisis continues. Aberaid is willing to help in any way we can to facilitate the arrival of the next group of Syrians seeking sanctuary here in West Wales.”

INSIDE ABERAID 

Aberaid began with a Facebook conversation between local mothers of young children who watched in horror as the refugee crisis unfolded last year, feeling helpless. So, the women took action, helping to collect clothing for refugees in Calais camps through Rum Aid, which was set up by Huw ‘Rummers’ Roberts.

Aberaid then organised the ‘Solidarity with Refugees’ rally on the promenade. Mark Williams MP, Elin Jones AM and Ceredigion Council leader Ellen ap Gwynn all spoke at that rally. An Aberaid petition called on Ceredigion Council to accept some refugees and public support led to the Counsel setting up a Task Force and becoming a ‘trailblazer’ local authority.

When the refugees arrived in Ceredigion, Aberaid liaised with the Council and Care Society to collect donations of household goods to equip their accommodation. Since then, Aberaid supported ‘Shoes for Little Syrians’, collecting children’s shoes via drop off points in local schools to go to camps in the Middle East. A fundraiser at the Morlan Centre for Faith and Culture in December 2015 raised £2,000, which went to charities specifically helping refugees on Greek Islands.

In March, Aberaid raised a further £600 to go to charities working in refugee camps in France. Clothing and bedding was delivered to camps in Calais via Aberaid and the student group Aber2Calais, who filmed their trip.

Last Friday (Jul 8), Aberaid drove some donations up to a group called Pobl i Bobl near Bangor. Pobl I Bobl have a container going out to refugee camps in Lebanon in the next few days. Pobl i Bobl are also receiving donations from Share in Mold.

DYFI CONVOY TO CALAIS 

This month, a group of 20 volunteers from Machynlleth and the convoy. The convoy will take the Aberaid donations that Johnny Gaunt and Ian Bell were unable to deliver when French authorities turned them away last month (Ceredigion Herald, June 24). In addition to delivering essential supplies such as dried foods and bedding, volunteers will stay on to ‘offer their compassionate presence and time, volunteering in the camp’. As well as helping out practically, they want to listen to people’s stories, helping to make them feel heard and not forgotten.

A successful fundraising ‘Ceilidh for Calais’ on Saturday (Jul 9) in the Plas, Machynlleth, welcomed over 150 people and raised an invaluable £665.

Convoy organiser Rosie Strickland, who has visited the Calais camp before to deliver bicycles, told the Herald: “Community support for this cause is huge and a broad range of people came to offer what they could, whether that be just their time, food, clothes or the odd pound popped in the donation tin.”

The Ceilidh also featured the sale of homemade food, cakes, bread and snacks, a rummage sale, glitter painting, and writing postcards and messages for refugees. Very popular was an auction of donated items, including original artworks, kitchenware, and beautifully renovated musical instruments.

Rosie Strickland said: “The crucial work of ordinary people, in the face of such widespread ignorance by the state and the continuing propagandising of racism, xenophobia and islamophobia in the mainstream media, is absolutely fundamental, not only in easing the physical situation of the people in crisis, but also in improving emotional and mental well-being.”

APPEAL FOR ACCOMMODATION

On June 13, Aberaid launched an appeal to help the Council find accommodation for its Syrian Resettlement Programme. So far, the Council have been unable to find suitable and affordable accommodation.

Aberaid state that: “It is important to note that the Council are not displacing any local people in need of affordable housing in order to do this.”

The appeal is aimed directly at landlords in the private sector, where many vacant properties may be suitable. The Council are looking for property in Aberystwyth and Lampeter or within a five mile radius, provided there is an adequate bus service. Rent will be paid at Local Housing Allowance (LHA) level.

In Ceredigion, a one bedroom household is eligible for £386.92 per month and a four bedroom household is eligible for £598.34 per month. A single person under thirty-five years is eligible for £270.83 per month. Suitable properties should be available for a minimum of 12 months.

Aberaid member, Lindsey Gaunt, said: “Aberaid offered to help the council as their housing department was not successful in finding any private accommodation suitable for the Syrian Resettlement Programme. Aberaid spent time researching and speaking to housing agents and landlords and provided a list of 12 houses or flats in Aberystwyth and three in Lampeter that would be suitable and were around the right rental rates. We are aware that there is some flexibility with regard to rates if landlords know that the contracts will be fixed for multiple years. We are waiting with great excitement to hear which of these homes are going to be chosen and very much hope that Lampeter will join Aberystwyth as a host communities for Syrian refugees.”

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Antisocial behaviour falls as police operation continues

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POLICE said that they saw a reduction in antisocial behaviour involving young people in Carmarthenshire over the weekend, following weeks of increased activity.

Dyfed-Powys Police officers proactively patrolled areas which have recently become hot spots for teenagers to gather and drink alcohol as part of an ongoing operation.

A police presence was also maintained on trains between Llanelli and Carmarthen to identify how many youngsters were travelling in the area and where they were getting off.

Sergeant Gemma Davies said: “Over the weekend we continued our work to target, deter and deal with antisocial behaviour and underage drinking in hot spots identified primarily in Llanelli and Burry Port.

“Section 34 dispersal orders had been put in place ahead of the weekend, meaning we could move on anyone likely to cause antisocial behaviour, but thankfully they were not required. This is an improvement on previous weekends when we have had to exercise these powers.

“A significant number of young people were spoken to, with the vast majority being pleasant, not under the influence of alcohol, and not causing any trouble.

“Members of the public acknowledged the high police presence, as did the young people, and this might have deterred underage drinking.

“We are very pleased to have seen the change in attitudes and behaviour this weekend.”

The force received just one call reporting youngsters gathering at Burry Port harbour, with no offences or antisocial behaviour identified by attending officers.

Of the young people spoken two over the weekend, two were found with alcohol which was seized. Follow-up antisocial behaviour letters will be issued, and home visits will take place shortly.

Groups were also reminded of the dangers of swimming near the harbour and were encouraged to take their rubbish home.

Officers on the rail network removed one drunk adult from a train.

Sgt Davies said: “I would like to thank all officers involved in the operation over the weekend, as well as the young people who made sure they stayed within the law while enjoying the weather.

“We will be out and about again next weekend and throughout the summer, making sure the area is enjoyable for all who visit.”

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Lord Lieutenant visits Mass Vaccination Centre

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Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Dyfed, Miss Sarah Edwards, has paid tribute to all those involved in the COVID-19 vaccination programme during a visit to the Y Ffwrness Mass Vaccination Centre in Llanelli.

During the visit on Wednesday 9th June she was joined by the Vice Lord-Lieutenant, Lt Col David Mathias, and the High Sheriff of Dyfed, Mr.Jonathan Gravell. They met and spoke to the centre’s vaccinators, NHS staff, security staff and volunteers.

To date, the collective efforts of mass vaccination centres, GP practices and community pharmacies in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, have resulted in the Hywel Dda University Health Board delivering over 431,850 vaccinations. This means 266,785 of the eligible population have now received a first vaccine, and 165,056 have received both doses.

The Lord-Lieutenant of Dyfed said: “It was wonderful to see first-hand the incredible work being undertaken by the vaccinators, NHS staff and volunteers. They have played a crucial role in the success of the vaccine rollout programme. I would also pay tribute to the public for their overwhelmingly positive response to getting vaccinated.”

Maria Battle, Chair of Hywel Dda University Health Board, added: “On behalf of the health board, I was delighted to welcome Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Dyfed, Miss Sara Edwards, the Vice Lord-Lieutenant, Lt Col David Mathias, and the High Sheriff of Dyfed, Mr Jonathan Gravell. I am deeply proud of everyone involved in the vaccination programme and I’m glad they got to see for themselves the incredibly work being undertaken to help get us through this pandemic.”

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Alcohol seized and teenager arrested as police deal with antisocial behaviour

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POLICE seized large amounts of alcohol and arrested a teenager as they continued to deal with antisocial behaviour over the weekend.

Dyfed-Powys Police had proactive plans in place to deal with ongoing issues of groups of youngsters gathering in Carmarthenshire following rising reports of alcohol-related antisocial behaviour over the past two months.

Dispersal orders were in place across Llanelli and Burry Port, giving police the powers to move anyone believed to be causing a nuisance, harassment or distress out of the area.

Officers patrolling the rail network in Carmarthenshire on Saturday noticed a large amount of young people getting off the train at Ferryside, where an additional dispersal order was put in place and alcohol was seized.

Officers were also required to deal with children trespassing on the railway tracks.

Sergeant Gemma Davies said: “We had received reports of children with alcohol running across the tracks, which posed a huge danger to themselves and others, and had to be stopped as a priority.

“One boy who was detained became abusive towards officers and could not be reasoned with. Officers had no choice but to arrest him for his own safety and to prevent further offences from being committed.

“This incident goes to show that the kind of behaviour we are dealing with goes beyond groups of young people meeting to have a good time, and is putting people in highly dangerous situations.”

A 17-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of trespassing on the railway and using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

He has been released under investigation pending further enquiries by British Transport Police.

Early intervention was taken in the Trostre area of Llanelli, where officers noticed groups of children meeting on Saturday.

Sgt Davies said: “More than 60 young people were moved on from both locations and a large amount of alcohol was seized.

“Out of these groups, four notices were issued to those causing the most trouble in the Trostre area which prevented them from returning, and each of these youngsters were taken home.

“This swift action was a deterrent to other young people who were planning on joining the groups and were still travelling to the area.”

“We will continue to put plans in place each weekend and over the summer holidays to deal with antisocial behaviour, using all powers available to us to put a stop to it.”

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