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Syrian family settling well in Cardigan

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A LOCAL charity, Croeso Teifi, welcomed one Syrian family to Cardigan in November last year and it seems they are settling in well.

The family met them at the airport along with two other community groups meeting a family each. The families shed tears of relief.

It was quickly found out that the Syrian family spoke no English. This did not inhibit communication or joy. The two children danced when they stopped in a cafe on the way home.

The parents started learning English straight away and are improving fast. This term the young children started full time school and are learning Welsh. The parents are also volunteering every week.

Croeso Teifi works with the Home Office and local authority on settling a small number of Syrian refugee families in or near Cardigan – wherever there is a welcome.

The team are aware of the importance of not competing with local needs for jobs, and minimising use of scarce public services.

The family were chosen by the United Nations organisation working with the Home Office with guidance from the Local Authority. Croeso Teifi let the Home Office know the skills that this area is short of before the selection.

The family say they love Wales, love Cardigan and love their home. The children go to school with a smile and come back practicing their Welsh. Their father is looking forward to getting into full time work, and both parents are doing a lot of homework to learn English quickly. They want to learn Welsh after learning English.

Croeso Teifi feel that the first family have been a success so far, They welcome new people to work to befriend and integrate a second family.

Community sponsored settlement is different to government supported settlement. The community provide all the money and gifts to ensure a successful integration. We find and equip a home, provide translation and English lessons, friendship and work and training and opportunities.

The generosity of people in and around Cardigan has been breath-taking. The hard working team of Croeso Teifi volunteers are regularly moved and surprised at the generous spirit of the town. We do our best to ensure that the area benefits as well as us benefitting the refugee family.

Wales is actually leading the UK in community sponsorship. Aberystwyth has its own community scheme with a first family due, and there are several families already in Pembrokeshire. The scheme was inspired by Canada where community sponsorship has been running for over 40 years. It enables refugee newcomers to belong to a local community from the word go, to quickly adapt and contribute their energy and skills.

The team look forward to the next phase of this journey of discovery.

However, a new report published by a coalition of organisations working to support refugees and asylum seekers in Wales shows that families separated from close relatives are experiencing significant trauma and long-lasting harm to their well-being.

At a time when 65 million people worldwide – half of them children – have been forced from their homes because of conflict, violence and persecution, the report also finds that barriers to reuniting family members can seriously impact on their ability to integrate into new communities and rebuild their lives in Wales.

Rihana, a woman from Syria, whose extended family are separated with different family members in Damascus and Lebanon, said: “Being apart from loved ones has brought about a lot of anxiety and distress. We are mentally affected as we always think of our extended family and the difficulties they must face.”

Published by the British Red Cross, Welsh Refugee Council, Displaced People in Action and Asylum Justice, the report calls on politicians in Wales to offer more support for refugees seeking to reunite with family members.

It also recommends that Welsh MPs support a Private Members Bill for Refugee Families that has its second reading in Parliament on Friday, March 16.

That Bill calls for changes to UK immigration rules that would expand the criteria for who qualifies as a “family member” for the purposes of refugee family reunion to include: young relatives, adult sons and daughters, adult siblings, parents, any dependent relatives and any person granted refugee leave.

It also calls for family members of children to be brought to the UK under the refugee reunion policy and for the reintroduction of legal aid for refugee family reunion cases.

The report also calls on the Welsh Government to offer additional support to refugees in Wales by looking at ways to mitigate the adverse impacts of UK policy in Wales by enabling refugees to access the free accredited legal advice required for complex family reunion cases and supporting Welsh local authorities and local health boards to implement protocols for successful family reunion applications.

Red Cross refugee services operations manager for Wales Ruth Gwilym Rasool said: “For many of us, family is the most important thing in our lives and refugees, just like the rest us in Wales, desperately want to remain close to their loved ones.

“Worldwide, we see conflict, violence and persecution driving families apart, with close relatives often separated by continents and loved ones left behind to face danger on a daily basis.

“Refugees now living in Wales have already been through barely imaginable pain and trauma and they deserve to be able to rebuild their lives and reunite their families in safety.

“Present family reunion rules prolong that suffering – causing untold stress and anxiety – and prevent refugees from beginning their new lives in their new communities in Wales.”

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Llanwrda bookshop in the running to be named Britain’s Best Small Shop of 2020

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AN appointment only bookshop in Llanwrda, Carmarthenshire, which offers a beautifully curated collection of books as well as cards, wrapping paper and Fair Trade gifts, has been named on the shortlist of retailers in the running to be named Britain’s Best Small Shop of 2020.

Books At The Dragon’s Garden says it “aims to make a visit to our shop an experience”. The shop runs a loyalty scheme for customers and offers promotions throughout the year. In addition, in its base at the market garden it uses organic compost, seeds and freshly picked vegetables and flowers. It only uses paper bags and has planted lots of pollinators in the garden to increase biodiversity.

The Best Small Shops competition is managed by the Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC), whose member trade associations represent approximately 100,000 independent retailers throughout the UK between them. The competition celebrates the commitment and creativity of independent retailers on the UK’s High Streets and the central role they play in their local communities. It is sponsored by Maybe*, an engagement platform that helps make social media work for independent retailers. The winner will be announced next month.

In addition to the main award, Books At The Dragon’s Garden has also been shortlisted for a special award to be given to the independent retailer that has demonstrated specific innovation to combat the impact of COVID-19. This award is sponsored by booost, the loyalty, gifting and promotions app.

“It was impossible to make my previous shop both safe and financially viable, so I had a radical rethink and a conversion of two old stables at my market garden meant I was able to move the entire shop to a rural location,” explains owner Mandy Tomos.

In the interim I continued to promote the business on social media and sold online via the website. I received an award as a “Local Hero” for continuing to supply my local community during lockdown. As the shop is now appointment only, it is very safe for both customers and staff, numbers are low and social distancing is easy. Contactless payment is taken outside under cover. I used social media to maintain contact with my customers and wrote a chatty book suggestion column in our local free paper every month.”

“This has been a particularly challenging year for small, independent retailers and many have come through to this point through innovation, quality of product and service, a commitment to serve their local communities and a large dose of determination,” explains Mark Walmsley, Chair of the IRC.

“As more and more people have been forced to stay home and work from home, we have seen just how much we all value local independent shops and want to see them not just survive, but also thrive. These shops offer choice, diversity and genuine customer service. And, after what has been a rather dark year, that has to be worth celebrating.”

The annual competition highlights the best of Britain’s independent retail sector, celebrating the commitment and creativity of independent retailers and the central role they play in their local communities. Previous winners have included Bristol-based delicatessen Papadeli, the 2019 winner, and The Mainstreet Trading Company, a combined bookshop, café, deli & homeware shop based in St Boswells, in the rural Scottish Borders, which won in 2018.

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Safe Zone arrangements during firebreak

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Aberaeron Safe Zone

FOLLOWING the announcement by First Minister Mark Drakeford that introduced a ‘fire break’ across Wales, Ceredigion County Council will not be closing the roads daily within the safe zones between 6pm on Friday, October 23 and 11am on November 9.

Some aspects will remain where changes are in place 24/7 or temporary parking restrictions apply. Council owned public car parks will remain free during this period for residents and visitors alike.

Safe Zone – Recent amendments

Further minor amendments have come into effect this week, they are:

· In Aberaeron, on street parking will return between Cadwgan Place and Market Street junction.
· In Aberystwyth, there is controlled blue holder access to Eastgate from Portland Street as well as controlled access to Chalybeate Street from Terrace Road.
· In Cardigan, there will be controlled blue badge holder access along High Street.

Safe zones are reviewed fortnightly in line with the infection rate and available evidence. A further announcement will be made before 09 November.

More information can be seen on the safe zones Council web page: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/SafeZones

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Two week national ‘Firebreak Lockdown’ announced for Wales from 6pm on Friday

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MARK DRAKEFORD, The First Minister of Wales has announced a two week ‘fire break’ lockdown from Friday October 23 at 18:00 HRS, to last until Monday November 9 at 00:01 HRS

Mr Drakeford said: “This firebreak is the shortest we can make it. It must be sharp and deep in order to have the impact we need it to have on the virus.”

All non essential businesses, including tourism businesses will be told to close.

Businesses have been told that they will be given £1000 each automatically to help with the economic impact of the shutdown.

Mr Drakeford added that children will be the priority and that childcare facilities will open as normal. Primary schools will open after half term.

Secondary schools will be closed for a week after half term to help control the virus.

Universities will offer a mixture of face-to-face learning and learning via video link. Students must stay at their university accommodation during the lockdown.

Responding to the Welsh Government’s announcement of a Wales-wide lockdown, Paul Davies MS, the Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament, has called the lockdown “not-proportionate” and is calling on the Welsh Government to be “open and transparent” on the evidence to support a lockdown and if the First Minister is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns every month.

Paul Davies MS said: “Sadly, the First Minster has failed to get public support for this second Wales-wide lockdown, failing to be open and transparent about the evidence to justify this lockdown and what his actions will entail for the future.

“The Welsh Government also has to be honest that this road they are taking us down is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns. This is not a two-week break to solve the pandemic, it is likely that we will see regular lockdowns across the rest of the year. The Welsh Government must be clear what actions they are taking during the lockdown to prevent further Wales-wide lockdowns which will have a significant impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.

“However, the main concern is that this national lockdown is not proportionate. The impact on businesses in areas such as Powys, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, who have the lowest rate of Covid-19 cases in Wales, will be severe at a time when they are desperately struggling to recover from the pandemic so far this year.

“The First Minister needs to urgently come to the Welsh Parliament and answer these questions, to face effective scrutiny by elected representatives and not run his government by media.”

Preseli Pembrokeshire MP, Stephen Crabb told The Herald: “The evidence to support an all-Wales lockdown is weak and I am sceptical that this so-called ‘fire-break’ will tackle the situation in those parts of Wales where infection rates have been out of control. The key issue for Welsh Government to address is what will be done differently after the firebreak ends in those parts of Wales where infection rates have spiralled out of control. Otherwise the whole of Wales risks being dragged back into a series of rolling lockdowns.

“As we saw earlier in the year, lockdowns come with huge costs in terms of harm to the economy and to people’s emotional and mental wellbeing. With the Welsh Government asking UK Government to fund this lockdown, I hope that as many businesses as possible get support they need quickly. Pembrokeshire’s hospitality businesses will be hit particularly hard by these latest restrictions and I will be fighting hard again to see that they are protected as the lockdown kicks in.”

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