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Syrian refugees yearn for home

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Abir Wahish and daughter Ruby

Abir Wahish and
daughter Ruby

A PUBLIC meeting aimed at discussing plans to offer support to Syrian refugees due to arrive in the country was held at the Antioch Centre in Llanelli on Monday (May 16).

Organisations including Syria Sir Gar, Carmarthenshire County Council and Ethnic Youth Support Team (EYST) were in attendance.

Following an announcement from Carmarthenshire County Council that it will be hosting vulnerable people as part of a national Home Office initiative, the voluntary group Syria Sir Gar has formed to offer humanitarian support to the new arrivals.

Addressing the meeting Carmarthenshire County Council’s Head of Public Protection and Housing Robin Staines said: “The UK government agreed to assist 20,000 people coming to the UK, fleeing the war in Syria.

“Our council looked at the situation last September (2015) and we agreed to house sixty households. A household could be an individual or a family. If you break that down to a national quota, the council would be more than meeting their responsibilities as part of that response.

“Since September, we have been working and planning to put things into place.”

Mr Staines said the council had had a fantastic response form the public and voluntary sector across Carmarthenshire and had been planning for six months to put all the logistics in place.

Explaining how the Council would rehouse refugees, Mr Staines said that the council went out to tender for professional services to support the families and that they had chosen EYST based in Swansea.

He continued: “A number of provisions had to be put in place including Housing and Support provision, Bank Accounts, National Insurance Numbers, Biometric Identification and accommodation, which the council are finalising with private landlords.

“The properties are there and we have the support in place. The critical success of this will be the community and how the community opens its arms and welcomes those families in and gives them the support as I know the people of Llanelli will.”

Abir Wahish is a Syrian who has been resident in Carmarthenshire since 2006.

She gave a presentation on her homeland and decried media coverage of it. She claimed media reports were failing to show the rich history, beauty and strategic importance of the country. She said that she believed that this was a deliberate attempt at diverting attention away from the real issue, which was a possible land grab by other Middle Eastern counties, leaving Syrians without a country to go back to.

Speaking to The Herald after the meeting Abir said: “The media keeps showing a negative image of Syria. This is unfair and unjust. It is like they are trying to distract people from the real reason or knowing about the root causes of what is happening there.

“Syria is a wonderful country in a very important strategic location and probably there are people who are stealing this land. All the refugees are being pushed out. If there are no Syrians left, the land is up for grabs. If it were only a matter of a dictatorial regime and opposition to that regime, it would have been solved by now. I feel outside powers are trying to push it further.”

The Herald asked Abir what she would say to those who claim an influx of refugees will place a stress on local resources.

“It is important for people to know that most refugees will want to go back to Syria, which is a very beautiful country. It is important to help refugees keep ownership of their land in Syria, so they can return. I would like to ensure the land is safeguarded.

“I am very concerned that the Syrian people will end up like the Palestinians without the right to return. If you really want to help the Syrian people help them keep the ownership of Syria for the Syrians. It is an open place where people have co-existed. It is a peaceful place. There is no need to fear from the Syrian people. There is no need to fear that they will be taking your jobs. They want to go back and they will go back.”

Abir told The Herald that she had returned to Syria many times, even during the war.

“I go back to Syria every year. I didn’t stop going back. I went with my children and they went to school there. Every day I wake up and think, should I go back to Syria.

“I like it here but Syria is a beautiful country.

“My main message would be that I would welcome anyone with fears and concerns to talk and hopefully show that there is no need to fear anything. I would beg the media to stop destroying Syria and this country with their negative narrative. This meeting is a wonderful start.”

Abir explained: “I am not denying the destruction. People are suffering there from poverty, no currency, no jobs no electricity. They are being put in a pressure cooker. They have either been pushed out by force or they are being pushed out because they have nothing left to stay for. They are getting faith from their belonging to the land and from God. They believe that if they leave and go to another country their land will be stolen and that they will not be accepted and that they will be humiliated.”

In a final plea she said: “It is fantastic to see people giving clothes and teddies etc.; but in this democratic country, while you can, please help the Syrians politically to be able to go back to their country legally.”

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Cllr Kevin Madge elected as new county council Chairman

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THE new chair of Carmarthenshire County Council said he will work tirelessly during his term of office.

Cllr Kevin Madge, member for Garnant, takes the chain of office whilst celebrating 40 years as a councillor.

Taking the chair, Cllr Madge paid tribute to outgoing chairman Cllr Mansel Charles, member for Llanegwad, saying he had fulfilled his duties with passion.

Cllr Madge will chair the council for the next 12 months, with Cllr Ieuan Davies, member for Llanybydder, as his vice chair, and his wife Catrin as his consort.

“I’m very much looking forward to the year ahead, I will do my best for everyone. I will work tirelessly,” he said.

Cllr Madge has chosen the Trussell Trust, which supports a nationwide network of food banks and emergency food provision for people in crisis, as his Chairman’s Charity of the Year.

The Chair is the first citizen of Carmarthenshire County Council, and is elected at the Annual General Meeting.

Duties include chairing full meetings of the council, representing the council at formal and ceremonial occasions, welcoming visitors to the county, and attending and supporting events organised by local people and organisations.

Cllr Madge has been a county councillor since 1996, and a member of Cwmaman Town Council since 1979.

He also serves as chairman of the Royal British Legion Garnant branch, Garnant Family Centre and Cwmaman Meals on Wheels, and is a member of Amman Valley League of Friends.

He represents the county council on the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, and the Mynydd y Betws Wind Farm Community Fund, and is on the governing body of Ysgol Y Bedol.

A former pupil of Amman Valley School, Cllr Madge has worked in the Amman Valley throughout his life, most recently as agent and researcher to Dr Alan Williams MP until 2001.

A keen football supporter, he has served as chair and president of Cwmaman Football Club and spent 25 years as a Welsh League and Neath and District football referee.

He is married with two children and three grandchildren.

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‘UK Government should work with the Welsh Labour Government on Tata’

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LOCAL Assembly Member Lee Waters and Nia Griffith MP have called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a deal to protect steel making at Trostre, and across Wales and the UK.

Lee Waters AM met with representatives from Tata Steel on Wednesday to discuss the future for steel making at the plant following the reported collapse of the proposed joint venture with Thyssenkrupp.

During the meeting he stressed the need to protect the entire steel supply chain in Wales, including the high quality jobs at Trostre, and those that depend on its presence in Llanelli.

Lee Waters AM said “It’s clear that the support Welsh Government provided during the crisis of 2016 has been critical in getting extra investment into Port Talbot which will secure the works for years to come. However, Tata is a company run from India, and we simply don’t know what the board will decide about its future strategy. They may well be looking for a new joint venture partner, so we’ll have to vigilant about the implications for our local plants.”

“Tata has said it intends to continue with its existing business plan, and honor commitments made to the Trade Unions, so Nia and I will be keeping a close eye to make sure that happens.”

Welsh Government has been in active discussions with Tata steel following the collapse of the merger with Thyssenkrupp. In a written statement and during questions on Wednesday, the Welsh Government committed to invest in Welsh steel to protect its future and is looking at a range of measures to assist on energy costs, business rates and procurement of steel for public sector contracts.

Lee Waters AM said “The Welsh Government have given significant support to the steel industry here but it can’t do everything, and we now need the UK Government to work with them to ensure a future for skilled work in the steel industry in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales.”

Nia Griffith AM said ““This latest news from Tata means yet more uncertainty for steelworkers. Their announcement about keeping Port Talbot is a start, but now we need real commitment from Tata on Trostre.

“We also need close cooperation from the company with the Trade Unions. Lee Waters AM and I will be urging the UK Government to follow Welsh Government in doing everything possible to secure the future of our steel industry.”

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MP and AM call for Trostre certainty after merger fails

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LOCAL ASSEMBLY MEMBER Lee Waters and Nia Griffith MP have called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a deal to protect steel making at Trostre, and across Wales and the UK.

Lee Waters AM met with representatives from Tata Steel on Wednesday to discuss the future for steel making at the plant following the reported collapse of the proposed joint venture with Thyssenkrupp.

During the meeting he stressed the need to protect the entire steel supply chain in Wales, including the high quality jobs at Trostre, and those that depend on its presence in Llanelli.

Lee Waters AM said “It’s clear that the support Welsh Government provided during the crisis of 2016 has been critical in getting extra investment into Port Talbot which will secure the works for years to come. However, Tata is a company run from India, and we simply don’t know what the board will decide about its future strategy. They may well be looking for a new joint venture partner, so we’ll have to vigilant about the implications for our local plants.”

“Tata has said it intends to continue with its existing business plan, and honor commitments made to the Trade Unions, so Nia and I will be keeping a close eye to make sure that happens.”

Welsh Government has been in active discussions with Tata steel following the collapse of the merger with Thyssenkrupp. In a written statement and during questions on Wednesday, the Welsh Government committed to invest in Welsh steel to protect its future and is looking at a range of measures to assist on energy costs, business rates and procurement of steel for public sector contracts.

Lee Waters AM said “The Welsh Government have given significant support to the steel industry here but it can’t do everything, and we now need the UK Government to work with them to ensure a future for skilled work in the steel industry in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales.”

Nia Griffith AM said “This latest news from Tata means yet more uncertainty for steelworkers. Their announcement about keeping Port Talbot is a start, but now we need real commitment from Tata on Trostre.

“We also need close cooperation from the company with the Trade Unions. Lee Waters AM and I will be urging the UK Government to follow Welsh Government in doing everything possible to secure the future of our steel industry.”

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