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Welsh language rights for refugees

Campaigners demand free language lessons for migrants

Welsh language campaigners called for free Welsh language lessons for migrants during this year’s Eisteddfod. While English lessons are funded by the UK Government for refugees and asylum-seekers in Wales, there is no provision for Welsh lessons.

Swansea University’s Dr Gwennan Higham commented that the Welsh government and the Home Office both downplay the importance of any language other than ‘superior’ English to the lives of immigrants in Wales.

Toni Schiavone from the Welsh language society Cymdeithas yr Iaith added: ‘As someone whose family came to Wales from Italy a generation ago, and who embraced Welsh, I know how much of a contribution migrants make to the prosperity of the language, Welsh is a gift for them as well. The struggle for the language is part of a wider struggle for rights and justice.’

He noted that the UK government imprisons asylum-seekers for indefinite periods and denies them rights to education and work and concluded: ‘To be a just society, we must tackle all the injustices that face migrants who come to Wales, and rights to the Welsh language are part of that.’

The issue is part of Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s wider campaign for the right to the Welsh language for all residents in Wales.

Campaigns include: confronting shops that do not have Welsh language signage; protesting a proposed ‘weaker’ language act; demanding a ‘Catalan-like’ education law with Welsh as the vehicle of normal expression in their educational and administrative activities; and refusing to pay TV licence fees until broadcasting rights have been devolved to Wales. Three campaigners are currently awaiting court trial out of over 70 who have joined the licence boycott.

Topics: Refugees