Kurdish refugee humiliated after being refused free travel on train from Swansea to Barry
A Kurdish refugee has spoken of how he was humiliated when a train worker refused him entry and told him the Welsh Government’s free rail travel for refugees scheme “wasn’t for him”.Raman, 32, came to Wales in August of 2020 after walking from Greece for 45 days.
He now lives in Swansea after being based in the Penally asylum seeker camp before he was given his refugee status in March.
His experience on Transport for Wales came when he tried to travel from Swansea to Barry where he had been offered work experience.Raman, who receives £40.85 a week from the UK government as a refugee, could not afford a ticket so wanted to use the Welsh government's promise of free rail travel for refugees.
Before making his way to the station, Raman, an Iranian Kurd, contacted Transport for Wales to check that the scheme applied to him, not just Ukrainians.
The response for TfW said: “The Welsh Government have confirmed that this offer will be extended to all refugees.”Raman travelled between Swansea and Barry Monday to Wednesday last week without any issues, showing his biometric refugee card.
However, when returning on Thursday one of the guards instructed him that he had to bring his documentation from the Home Office as well.Perplexed Raman did as instructed and went to the station on Friday with the intention of going to work. However, a guard then insisted on inspecting all his documentation in public before refusing him entry.
He said the person working for Transport for Wales told him "this isn't for you anyway, it is for Ukrainians fleeing war".
“There was a police officer there. I wasn't confident, I was breaking down,” Raman said.“It's not easy. Even if it's your own language, your mother tongue, having such a conversation is not easy.
“You are feeling that you've been discriminated against, assaulted and humiliated at the same time. They didn't try to get some information from the superior or from or even to call the Transport for Wales office for more information.“They just decided and refused me. Why treat people like this? I walked 45 days straight to get to this country, mostly at night, through forests and mountains.
“I was afraid of seeing people, seeing cars, scared of barking of dogs and other things. I still get traumatised about it. It was a nightmare. All to get here so I can have sanctuary."When she said it is only for Ukrainians I thought ‘I am sorry my eyes are not blue or my hair blond’. They probably would never be able to walk in my shoes for a minute.
“They probably couldn't even imagine what I've been through, to then treat me like this now?”
Lawyer and civil rights campaigner Hilary Brown said: “If the Welsh Government or any government put such policies in place, they have to be absolutely clear about who can access such benefits.
“The application of the scheme shouldn’t be at the discretion of individual Transport for Wales employees.“When it comes down to discretion that can be interpreted and it can be influenced by people's views whether they are discriminatory, racist or something else.
“When it is open to misinterpretation, people like Raman, get left behind. And this scheme was certainly meant to support refugees for six months in 2022. To enable them to go for work experience and job offers.“My concern about what happened to him is, whoever this person was who told him to bring in his immigration papers, are they qualified to interpret the documentation granting refugee status."
A spokesperson for Transport for Wales said: “We’re proud to support people seeking refuge who need to use our services, including offering free travel for those who have recently entered the country and setting up arrival hubs at Cardiff Central and Wrexham General.
“We are currently working with our colleagues in Welsh Government to evaluate and improve this scheme.“We’re very sorry for any distress caused to the customer. We take any allegations of racism very seriously and we’ll carry out a full investigation with our station management team.”The Welsh Government has been approached for comment.