The Situation in Gaza

1. Questions to the First Minister – in the Senedd at on 23 April 2024.

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Photo of Peredur Owen Griffiths Peredur Owen Griffiths Plaid Cymru

(Translated)

2. What is the Government doing to support Welsh families affected by the situation in Gaza? OQ60991

Photo of Vaughan Gething Vaughan Gething Labour 1:35, 23 April 2024

Ministers and Cabinet colleagues have met with both Jewish and Muslim leaders and community members since the start of the Israel-Gaza war. We continue to offer our condolences to all those people affected by the current crisis. A number of families and community groups are directly affected in communities across Wales. And we will continue to support any hate crime victims through our Wales Hate Support Centre.

Photo of Peredur Owen Griffiths Peredur Owen Griffiths Plaid Cymru

Last week at a Senedd event, we heard from Mr and Mrs Brisley from Bridgend, whose daughter and granddaughters were killed by Hamas on 7 October. They said that they hadn't heard from anyone from the Welsh Government since the loss of their loved ones. I'd like to know if the same is true for all Welsh citizens who have lost relatives in the region during the last six and a half months of bloody conflict. I'd also like to know if any support has been given to Welsh citizens who have done everything they could, financially and emotionally, to get their relatives out of the danger zone in Gaza. Some of our residents with links to Palestine have gone into eye-watering debt to safeguard their loved ones. We really need safe passages set up to avert the escalating humanitarian disaster in Gaza, and I'd like to know what the Government can do about that. And finally, given the events since 7 October, with more than 30,000 people dead, and hostages still being held, does he now agree with Members on the Plaid Cymru benches that an immediate ceasefire is the only way to guarantee the end of the bloodshed, for the return of the hostages, and an end to the famine we are seeing in Gaza?

Photo of Vaughan Gething Vaughan Gething Labour 1:37, 23 April 2024

It's been the position of the Welsh Government for some time that there should be an immediate ceasefire. There needs to be a significant increase in routes for aid, as well as the amount of aid provided, because there is a very real humanitarian crisis taking place before us, in addition to resolving the issues around the atrocities that did take place on 7 October, which includes the release of all the hostages. Now, I don't think that, across this Chamber, people will disagree with that position. Our challenge is the level of influence we have on decision makers within the region, the talks that are taking place between different actors to try to generate a ceasefire, and the ability to stop the killing.

Now, when that comes to what we can do practically in Wales—you mentioned the family of Lianne Sharabi—we continue to provide practical support, in terms of the emotional well-being of people who live in Wales. I recognise that there are people on all sides of this conflict who are directly affected in constituencies and regions here in Wales. If the Member is able to provide me with more direct contact details for where the family are at present, and how they have or haven't accessed services, I'll happily make sure that the support that is available is provided to them. But we're really talking about practical and emotional support for families. This is an area where we don't have responsibility for dealing with both refugee and returns policies and family reunion. The Welsh Government has been clear, though, that we want a more generous approach to people seeking asylum, people fleeing war zones, and for a proper family reunion service. We actually provided funding towards the service provided by the Red Cross. As I say, I recognise that there's concern on all sides of this Chamber. We'll continue to play as constructive a role as we can do here in the Welsh Government, and with, as I say, the clarity in our call for a ceasefire, for an increase in aid and for the hostages to be released.

Photo of Darren Millar Darren Millar Conservative 1:39, 23 April 2024

Thank you, First Minister, for that response. Like others in this Chamber, I have been very concerned about the increase in antisemitism, and, indeed, in anti-Muslim hatred, since 7 October, even on our streets here in Wales. Now, one of the things that the Welsh Government could do to try to address antisemitism, particularly on our university campuses, is to require, as a condition of funding for our universities, higher education institutions to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. Is that something that your Government will require them to do? 

Photo of Vaughan Gething Vaughan Gething Labour 1:40, 23 April 2024

The Government, of course—this Welsh Government—has recognised the IHRA definition of antisemitism. So, it goes into the work that we do. It is part of how we see our delivery of a genuinely anti-racist Wales. I am pleased that the Member recognises that there has been both a rise in antisemitism on the streets in communities that we represent and, indeed, a rise in Islamaphobia. I have seen that in my own constituency, sadly. I'm not sure that the proposal he makes on requiring the recognition of the IHRA as a funding condition for universities will actually help to deliver the practical measures that we need to see a reduction in antisemitism and Islamaphobia on university campuses. I think it is part of a whole society challenge and effort, where you want people to be able to discuss topics in a way that is safe and does not increase the hate and the division that already exists. That will continue to guide the approach that this Government takes in our engagement with families, communities and wider stakeholders in Wales.

Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour 1:41, 23 April 2024

First Minister, many families in Newport East have been and are affected by the events in Israel and Gaza, and what they want, as we've already touched upon, is an immediate and permanent ceasefire, the release of hostages, sufficient humanitarian aid finding its way into Gaza and, indeed, the beginnings of a political process that will bring a lasting peaceful solution. António Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, I believe has spoken very powerfully about these important moments in history and the need not to be a bystander. So, I would just say, First Minister, that we have different levels of responsibility, obviously, as you've touched upon, at different levels of Government, but it is really important for political leaders and politicians—all of us—at all levels not to be bystanders and to call for humanity to prevail.

Photo of Vaughan Gething Vaughan Gething Labour 1:42, 23 April 2024

Again, I don't think there is a single Member across this Chamber that would disagree with the sentiment and the statement made by John Griffiths. I'm interested in how innocent civilians, whether they be Israeli or Palestinan, can actually plan a future with the peace and security that we take for granted in this country. As I said, the Welsh Government is clear: we want to see an immediate end to the killing, a ceasefire; we want to see an immediate significant increase in the aid that can be provided; we want to see hostages returned. It remains my view that the long-term way to guarantee the stability and peaceful security that citizens should expect is for there to be a viable, secure Israel, as a neighbour to a viable and secure Palestinian state. We are a long way off from that being delivered in reality.