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The Sanctuary website: Information for the few not the many

October 29th 2019

Last week the much-awaited ‘Sanctuary’ website became live, reflecting on it’s aims Claire Thomas asks could more be done to ensure the ‘welcome to Wales’ site becomes a useful resource.

The development of a website was announced by Welsh Government in January this year as part of the ‘Nation of Sanctuary – Refugee and Asylum Seeker Plan’ and aims to:

Provide accessible, relevant information for refugees and asylum seekers. It will ensure those seeking sanctuary can develop their own knowledge of life in Wales and find advice around health, education and employment, as well as language and general information on the culture and history of Wales.

We support the development of this website and believe it has the potential to be an important source of information which could help empower people living in Wales. It is clear a lot of time and resource went into developing the website, particularly its translation into many different languages. We welcome the inclusion of information on rights and responsibilities and important issues like domestic violence. Through our own conversations with asylum seekers and refugees a lack of information often acts as a barrier to settling in Wales, so the launch of this website will be appreciated by members of the community.

What should be included?

We believe the website should:

  • Contain relevant information including a list of local and national asylum seeker and refugee support groups, and also other groups that may be of interest including sports/hobby-based clubs or age and gender specific groups. An overview of the local area would be helpful and could include information on beaches, parks, places of interest and local landmarks in the area. Some local history may also help people understand and settle into their new surroundings.
  • Present information in a consistent format, for example if it talks about the presence of different faith groups in one area, it should also talk about the lack of or existence of faith groups in the others.
  • Be user-friendly and not contain too many hyper-links which can become confusing, particularly when they take the user to sites which are not translated. It is not possible to include all information on this website but it would be useful to have some headline information.
  • Include factually correct and up to date information. Any errors will lead to people losing faith in the rest of the information provided and at worst could mean they end up acting on wrong information.
  • Contain information that is constructive and adds to what people may already know. The website is a good opportunity to promote the benefits of learning English alongside what is provided and where. It could also be a place to share information about Welsh culture and history.
  • Be an information resource for all those who have come to Wales to work, live and study.

Has the website delivered?

Achieving a website which is consistent, factually correct, up to date and constructive in a user-friendly format is fraught with difficulties. To achieve this it will take a lot of time and investment upfront and also requires an ongoing commitment from external stakeholders and Welsh Government to maintain it. The website in its current form is informative and useful for refugees and asylum seekers, however we don’t believe that it has yet reached its full potential and met what we have outlined above. There is currently a lack of meaningful information about local areas and Welsh culture more generally, and there are some initial errors which we would urge Welsh Government to remove including the reference to Theresa May as the UK Prime Minister.

Overall the website could achieve so much more. We believe it could have the potential to form part of a wider campaign and target all those who have come to work, live and study in Wales, not just refugees and asylum. The important information it contains is relevant to many people who live in Wales, but by branding it as a ‘sanctuary’ website it is targeting a far smaller group.

Going forward

Although this website is currently live, we understand that it hasn’t yet been formally launched – so there is time to amend some of the errors and importantly reflect on the potential of this site. At the moment the overall ‘Welcome to Wales’ message lacks substance. A few pictures could also help engage the user!

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