by Ibrahim Badawi and Margie Cheesman, volunteer editors
SHARE Tawe: Addressing major challenges with asylum accommodation in Wales
Social justice campaigners have recently been calling for the UK Home Office to end the use of army barracks to house asylum seekers. The #CloseTheBarracks campaign recognises military camps, such as Penally camp in Carmarthenshire, as unsafe and inhumane living conditions for asylum seekers and refugees. Hundreds of people have been forced to live in Penally camp, where there have been allegations of ‘cover-ups, poor access to healthcare and legal advice, and crowded conditions.’ From today, 22nd March 2021, there will be a ‘phased exit’ from Penally camp, following much campaigning, legal action, and an inspection by government authorities.
Despite this win for social justice in Wales, the quality and availability of asylum accommodation continues to be a critical issue. Sourcing adequate housing for people in need is a major ongoing challenge. In Swansea, the SHARE Tawe Project has been doing positive and inspiring work to address this challenge.
Swansea’s SHARE Tawe Project
SHARE Tawe provides a warm place to stay for homeless asylum seekers who have lost their accommodation. The project connects people with local hosts in Swansea.
Mr Alan Thomas, who gave the project its unique name said: ‘”Share” refers to people being prepared to share their homes. It is a two-way thing, because the local hosts often gain a lot in terms of friendship and understanding as a result of getting to know someone from another country. “Tawe” is the Welsh name of the river that flows through Swansea and connects the community. The Welsh name for Swansea is “Abertawe” (where “Aber” means “mouth of”).’
SHARE Tawe was started as a small project by a subgroup of City of Sanctuary, with several aims. The most important aim is “To offer hospitality, in the form of accommodation, meals, welcome and solidarity to destitute asylum seekers in Swansea. The project goals cannot be done without volunteers who offer a room in their home, or who support the scheme in other ways.” SHARE Tawe has been running for over ten years, and for the last four or five it has been run by SASS, which says that its ultimate goal is “to provide sufficient support and security to enable people to focus on gaining the right to stay in the UK”.
15-20 people on average have benefitted each year, for both shorter and longer periods, and there are 6-10 people in hosted accommodation at any one time. 5-6 people have been hosted throughout the lockdown.
Despite the major challenges and unknowns surrounding Home Office policy and the closing of military camps as accommodation, volunteers are optimistic to see the continuing positive impact of the project in the Swansea community. Please click here for more information and to support the SHARE Tawe, and join our workshops on Wednesday 24th & 30th March to learn more: