Like millions of people around the world, the tragic death of George Floyd, at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, has left me shocked, angry and upset.
The First Minister, Mark Drakeford has said that the footage which emerged was “among the most shocking and upsetting” that he had ever seen. I believe that George Floyd must not become just another name added to the roll call of lives lost to racism and injustice.
Welsh Labour’s vision is that of an inclusive Wales in which people from all backgrounds can thrive, and where there is no room for xenophobia, racism or bigotry. The Welsh Labour Government is determined to drive out hate crime and ensure victims do not suffer in silence. The Welsh Government works closely with ethnic minority communities and support organisations to challenge discriminatory attitudes and improve outcomes. This engagement is ensuring that the Welsh Government is able to understand the needs and concerns of minority communities across Wales and helps inform decisions going forward – – and the history of Wales’ relationship with Black Americans should be remembered at this time.
The Welsh Labour Government has convened a BAME COVID-19 Health Advisory Group, chaired by Judge Ray Singh, to advise the Chief Medical Officer, Welsh Ministers and partner organisations on the impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities. Professor Emmanuel Ogbonna is leading a sub-committee of the Advisory Group to investigate the socio-economic issues that may influence poorer COVID-19 outcomes in BAME groups and any actions that may help. The advisory group will report its initial findings shortly.
A new risk assessment tool developed by Professor Keshav Singal was launched last month by the Welsh Government to help people from Black, Asian or other minority ethnic backgrounds working in our NHS and in social care to see if they are at a higher risk of developing more serious symptoms if they come into contact with coronavirus. The risk assessment will allow those identified as having an increased to discuss adjustments to their working arrangements with their employer, including work from home where that is possible. You can find out more about the risk assessment tool by going to: https://gov.wales/written-statement-all-wales-covid-19-workforce-risk-assessment-tool.
We welcome the launch of a new investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into the impact of coronavirus on ethnic minorities. This statutory inquiry will help develop clear, evidence-based recommendations for urgent action to tackle entrenched racial inequalities in Wales and the rest of the UK. It is good to see the that Trade Unions have said that they will fully engage with the inquiry to ensure that the voices of Black workers are heard. We look forward to examining the inquiry’s findings when these are published.
I wholeheartedly support calls to suspend all UK exports of riot control equipment. I welcome the intervention of the Shadow International Trade Secretary, Emily Thornberry who has written to the UK Government to call for an urgent investigation into whether British-made equipment has been used in response to ongoing protests in the United States, and to immediately stop further exports if this is the case.
Successive Welsh Labour governments have invested a significant amount of funding to tackle hate crime in Wales. Our Welsh Labour Government works closely with the four Welsh police forces, Police and Crime Commissioners and the Hate Crime Criminal Justice Board to ensure hate crimes are investigated properly, victims are supported and perpetrators – whoever they are – are punished. But, the number of hate crimes reported has increased year on year and we know there is more that needs to be done. That is why the Welsh Government has increased funding to the National Hate Crime Report and Support Centre to provide support and advocacy to victims of hate crime, as well as funding third sector organisations to support those affected by hate crime directed towards ethnic and religious minority communities.
In the Senedd this week speaking as Equalities Minister, I described the death of George Floyd as a tragedy, but more than that, it’s a terrible injustice, the like of which we must fight to never see repeated. I feel for George Floyd’s family and the plight of Black people in America. The events there are being felt globally, but we must not for a second think that Wales is immune from racism towards all people of colour. Intolerance and prejudice still resides in our communities. I stand in solidarity against racism and injustice wherever it takes place. I condemn discrimination in all its guises. I say loudly and clearly that Black Lives Matter. It is my strong belief that our collective efforts will, in the end, turn the tide.