A POWYS organisation that supports refugees has been working with another local business to provide bikes to asylum seekers in order to help them integrate and settle in Wales.

Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees (HBTSR) have been working alongside Hay-on-Wye bike hire, shop and repair centre Drovers Cycles over the last three years. Together they have donated over 200 bicycles so that people seeking asylum can have a means of free transport to allow them to attend college and English lessons, explore their area or even just to exercise for health and mental wellbeing.

There are about 3,000 people seeking asylum in Wales, having fled war and persecution, and are now living in multi occupancy households where they are living on less than £40 a week. HBTSR started in 2015 with the aim of welcoming and supporting these and other impoverished people. Part of the rationale is a society that forces vulnerable newcomers onto the margins is storing up problems for both the individual and themselves.

HBTSR first started collecting donated bicycles in November 2017, inspired by Anna, Luke and Andy of Drovers Cycles and HBTSR supporters Sean O’Donoghue and Miv Smith. They arranged several practical bike maintenance days in Hay when people seeking asylum in Cardiff and Newport were able to visit, learn how to repair a bicycle and were then given one of their own.

Mark Seymour, who with Sarah Croft runs a support group for people seeking sanctuary in Newport, has since set up a weekly bike maintenance group with asylum seeking volunteers, ensuring people have road-worthy bikes and turning old, damaged bikes donated throughout Gwent and Breconshire into trusty steeds. They now use a small, sheltered space in Newport city centre.

In addition to helping people seeking asylum the volunteers also attend local repair cafes which aids their integration and widens their social circle. Drovers Cycles, who offer bike hire, sales, repairs and a café, have continued to collect donated bikes and over the last three years at least 200 of all sizes and conditions have left the Hay area to be given to people seeking asylum in South Wales cities.

Lawrence Duffy, treasurer of HBTSR, assisted by young supporter Cian Aplin, picked up 29 bicycles earlier this month, donated by many generous people, stored by Drovers Cycles and Sean O’Donoghue, and drove down south in a van loaned by Tailored Imports, their second such journey in the last three months. Thirteen bikes and some other goods were taken to Mark in Newport, with the remaining 16 taken to Swansea-based Re-Cycle and Unity in Diversity, an asylum seekers support group.

Boxes of kitchen items and some sewing machines were also given to Unity in Diversity.

HBTSR are extremely glad to be able to support these activities and are very grateful to Drovers Cycles, Tailored Imports and to everyone who donated a bike or helped to store it.

The bikes make a great difference to the lives of people living on less than £40 a week. “It’s not just a bike, it’s a bit of independence, freedom and a way to stay healthy,” said Lawrence.

If you 'd like to know more about HBTSR you visit their website at https://hbtsr.cityofsanctuary.org or check out their Facebook page.