What is the Welsh Refugee Coalition?

by Lily Scaplehorn

The Welsh Refugee Coalition, established in 2015, is made up of 54 charities and organisations who work together to pool their collective resources and speak with one unified voice on policies and practices impacting asylum seekers and refugees in Wales. The Coalition meets on a three-monthly basis to discuss the issues they collectively face and to ensure Wales acts in becoming a Nation of Sanctuary. Sabiha joined the team in August of last year.

Sabiha’s role: Coordinating Collective Impact

Sabiha works with and coordinates the collective efforts of these organisations to ensure their work is at its most impactful. She sees her role as ‘making sure sanctuary seekers all have equitable opportunity to seek sanctuary’ and to help ensure that that Wales becomes a nation who is ‘happy to receive and empower them’. Her role involves leading on strategy work such as revision of the Welsh Refugee Coalition’s vision, aims, and outcomes, with a sharp focus on the Coalition’s manifesto priorities. Sabiha aids in the planning of campaigns and coordinated lobbying of Welsh Government and Westminster to amplify the voices of sanctuary seekers. She says, ‘a big part of my role is bringing people together to produce a solution or lobby for a solution’.

Sabiha’s day to day work is varied. A vital aspect is reviewing policy documents to remain up to date with ever-changing asylum seeker and refugee rights. Reading and formatting policy updates into digestible information allows for the Coalition members to implement changes efficiently and helps increase understanding across the sector. She is also involved in the organisation of key events throughout the year, such as the forthcoming Nation of Sanctuary Awards and Refugee Week. One of her current projects is coordination of the response to the Welsh Government consultation on how to refresh the Nation of Sanctuary Plan.

It’s a job that’s very fulfilling, especially, she says, when she’s able to connect smaller organisations within the Coalition, such as grassroots and community groups, with the people and opportunities necessary to participate in policy consultations and lobbying activities. A key aim of the Coalition is to approach the Welsh Government with a comprehensive, informed, and unified voice; Sabiha helps facilitate this through activities ranging from interviewing those within lived experience groups to creating templates for organisations to develop their consultation responses.

Within the sector, the tools and resources that are necessary to conduct this important work can sometimes be scarce and so collaborative work is often the most effective; Sabiha plays a key part in this collaboration.

Sabiha’s Journey to the Welsh Refugee Coalition

Prior to her role as Coalition Coordinator, Sabiha held various other roles within the third sector with a focus on equality. What attracted Sabiha to the post of Coordinator was its focus on campaigning, particularly against the hostile treatment and perception of refugees and asylum seekers. Sabiha applied for the position shortly after the Illegal Migration Act was passed and says she saw the role as an opportunity to “play an active part in changing the culture”.

Beyond the Coalition

Outside of work, Sabiha has earned the title of Welsh Ambassador for Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE) and is named by the Future Generations Commissioner as a humanitarian changemaker. These accolades have been earned from her years dedicated to the third sector.