The power of symbolic sanctuary: Insights from Wales on the limitations and potential of a regional approach to sanctuary

Catrin Wyn Edwards, Verena Wisthaler (Awdur Gohebol)

Allbwn ymchwil: Cyfraniad at gyfnodolynErthygladolygiad gan gymheiriaid

5 Dyfyniadau(SciVal)
37 Wedi eu Llwytho i Lawr (Pure)


This article explores sanctuary policies and practices for refugees and asylum seekers from a regional perspective. Following a declaration by the Welsh government in 2019, Wales became the first and only European region to explicitly connect to the wider sanctuary movement, with the stated intention of becoming a true ‘Nation of Sanctuary’ (NoS) (Welsh Government 2019). While European regions are traditionally unable to legislate and govern on immigration flows, they engage with the policy field by steering immigrant integration policies, which can both complement and contradict state frameworks.

We argue that the Welsh government’s approach to sanctuary is richly symbolic and is used strategically to compensate for the lack of formal legislative competencies in the field of immigration and asylum, and to position itself in opposition to the UK government and its ‘hostile environment’ policy. We first trace the emergence of sanctuary as a concept in Wales. We then review the Welsh government’s policies and practices in the field and analyse their implications. Our analysis is based on parliamentary debates on sanctuary in the Senedd (Welsh parliament) between 2015 and 2020, responses to a parliamentary consultation on refugees and asylum seekers in 2016, and 19 semi-structured interviews with key actors from governmental and non-governmental bodies working with refugees and asylum seekers.

The article highlights the potential of symbolic policies to underpin a regional form of sanctuary, along with their limitations. First, we show that regions such as Wales can use symbolic policies to overcome their lack of legislative competency in asylum policies. Second, we argue that symbolic policies allow regional governments to position themselves as allies to those supporting refugees and asylum seekers, and as an opponent of the state. Third, we illustrate how a regional government’s symbolic commitment facilitates concerted action on the part of relevant governmental and non-governmental actors within the region. However, we also highlight the fragility and inconsistency of symbolic sanctuary.
Iaith wreiddiolSaesneg
Tudalennau (o-i)3602-3628
Nifer y tudalennau27
CyfnodolynJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Rhif cyhoeddi14
Dyddiad ar-lein cynnar04 Mai 2023
Dynodwyr Gwrthrych Digidol (DOIs)
StatwsCyhoeddwyd - 2023

Ôl bys

Gweld gwybodaeth am bynciau ymchwil 'The power of symbolic sanctuary: Insights from Wales on the limitations and potential of a regional approach to sanctuary'. Gyda’i gilydd, maen nhw’n ffurfio ôl bys unigryw.

Dyfynnu hyn