Help for refugees and asylum seekers to understand their rights
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About our community

Wales is a diverse country with people from a range of ethnic, national, religious, or cultural backgrounds. This includes thousands of refugees and asylum seekers from across the world. This section of the website explains important things for you to know about Welsh communities.

Equality and Human Rights

Our laws state that people must be treated fairly and equally. It is illegal to treat another person less well because of their:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Gender Identity (where this is different from their gender at birth)
  • Whether they are married or not
  • Pregnancy
  • Race
  • Religious beliefs
  • Sexual orientation

We regard all people as equal. This is guaranteed by the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998. If you are treated badly because of one of these differences, this may be considered to be discrimination or a hate crime.  You can report this to the Police or through Victim Support Cymru to receive support.

All children in Wales have rights guaranteed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. More information about these rights and support can be found on the Staying Safe on this website. 

In Wales, people are free to follow any religion or belief. Christianity is the largest religion in Wales. Almost a third of people in Wales do not follow any religion at all. Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist followers are increasing in Wales.

The laws of Wales are decided by the National Assembly for Wales and the UK Parliament. Laws are not made by religious organisations or leaders. Laws are not made by religious organisations or leaders. 

We welcome people to Wales from all over the world but we expect them to follow these rules when they are living within our community.

Community life

‘Community cohesion’is a term we use to describe how everyone in an area can live alongside each other with mutual understanding and respect. British people are usually reserved and well mannered. Neighbours like to politely greet each other by saying ‘hello’, ‘good morning’, or ‘good afternoon’. Even those who do not speak Welsh fluently may use Welsh language greetings – ‘shwmae’, ‘Bore da’ or ‘Prynhawn da’.

British people value good manners. Say ‘please’ when requesting something or ‘thank you’ when you have received something. ‘Excuse me’ is a polite way of gaining attention. Bad manners could include spitting or urinating in a public place other than a toilet. Litter should always be put in a bin. British people try to recycle as much waste as possible.

Making too much noise on the street or late at night may lead to complaints from your neighbours. Keeping pets under control and your gardens tidy will prevent complaints.

It is against the law to smoke in many public places in Wales. This includes all shops, restaurants, buses, trains, factories and cars if children are present. You can be fined up to £200 for smoking in one of these places. You must be at least 18 years of age to buy cigarettes. You can smoke in your own home or places designed for smoking. ‘Help Me Quit’ can support you to give up smoking.

There are also restrictions on the use of alcohol. You must be at least 18 years of age to buy alcohol. There are strict limits on how much alcohol can be consumed if you are driving. To make sure you do not break these limits it is safest not to drink any alcohol if you are planning to drive a vehicle.

In the UK, wherever there is a mass of people you will find an orderly queue. If there are people waiting for something you should join the back of the queue. This way each person receives the service in the order that they arrived. We ‘wait our turn’ in queues. It is seen as unfair if someone does not join the queue and pushes in.

Queuing can seem very strange if you are not used to it. If you ‘push in’ it is seen as very rude and unfair to other people who have been waiting. If in doubt ask “is this the back of the queue?” to avoid offending anyone.

Wales has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those fleeing persecution from around the world. Wales is open to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people who have come to the UK to seek a safe haven from persecution.

LGBT+ asylum seekers often face additional obstacles in having their need for protection recognised. You may be asked embarrassing and awkward questions during the UK's asylum process.

It is important that you feel safe and free to be yourself when living in Wales. There are a number of services you can access such as Stonewall, Tawe Butterflies or Newport’s Hoops & Loops.


It is compulsory to register a birth or death in the UK. A birth must be registered within 42 days in the county where the birth occurred. If the parents are not married then both parents must attend the registration if they want both details to be included on the birth certificate. Either parent can register a birth if the parents are married to each other. Appointments must be made with the Local Authority. A death must be registered within 5 days in the county where the death occurred. It is the duty of a relative of the deceased person to register the death.

The electoral register (or electoral roll) lists the names and addresses of everyone who is registered to vote in elections. You must register to vote if you are asked to do so and you are permitted to vote. If you do not, your local Electoral Registration Office could fine you £80.

Useful information

Lots of services in Wales need you to make an appointment before you can receive help. This is because services are often very busy. Appointments may be as short as 10 minutes so it is important that you are not late for the time slot you have been given. If you are late, the appointment may be cancelled and you may not get another time slot for weeks. If you know you will not be able to make it to the appointment you should make sure the service knows. They may be able to make changes to help you. If you need to use a different language during your appointment, make sure you tell the service this when you are booking your appointment. It may be possible to book an interpreter to help you be understood.

Most services operate during what is known as the ‘working week’. This means Monday to Friday. This also usually means between the hours of 9am and 5pm. ‘Shift work’ often refers to people working longer or more flexible hours than this.

In the summer, the clocks in Wales are moved forward by one hour. This is called ‘British Summer Time’ or BST.  BST starts on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in October. In October, the clocks are moved back by one hour. Between the end of October and March is known as ‘Greenwich Mean Time’ or GMT.

Post offices provide many services. These include helping you to send mail, checking forms for passports or licenses and some basic savings accounts. You can find out more about their services here. Each local area will have libraries and leisure centres offering a range of services. Find out more on the Your Local Area page.

Taxes and utilities

Most residents in Wales will need to pay for a range of services.

‘Council Tax’ is payable on nearly all types of accommodation. You are responsible for paying this if you own the property or are named on a lease agreement. If you fail to pay your Council Tax you may be taken to court. You may need to register with the Local Authority to pay Council Tax. If you are an asylum seeker, this Council Tax will be paid by the UK Government. 

If you are a refugee living in your own property you are likely to have ‘utility bills’. These include bills for water, electricity, gas and telephone or internet access. Most people pay these bills monthly but utility companies often offer a range of payment options. If you are an asylum seeker, some of these bills will be paid for you by the UK Government.

You must have a ‘TV Licence’ if you watch or record live or ‘on demand’ programmes on a TV, computer or other device. You can be fined up to £1,000 if you watch these programmes without a licence. You can find out if you need a TV licenceand apply for one at the TV licencing website.

Refugees are usually entitled to work. When you receive your wages you may find that ‘Income Tax’ and ‘National Insurance’ have been deducted from your pay. These taxes are deducted from most working adults in the United Kingdom to fund the Government.  The National Health Service (‘NHS’) is also funded in this way. Asylum seekers are usually not entitled to work.

Driving in Wales

Asylum seekers without a driving licence cannot apply for a driving license within the United Kingdom. Asylum seekers with a driving licence are permitted to drive in the UK for a maximum of 12 months from the date they arrived in the United Kingdom. After this period, asylum seekers are not permitted to drive.

Refugees must have been granted at least 185 days of leave to remain to qualify to apply for a driving licence in the UK. You can apply for a driving licence here.

In addition to having a valid driving license, all drivers in the UK must have valid motor insurance. It is a criminal offence to drive in the UK without insurance or allow others to drive your car without insurance.

Cars over three years old also need to pass a yearly safety check called an ‘MOT’. Many car garages can perform this check and issue you with the MOT certificate if your car passes the check. You will have to pay a fee for the MOT check to be carried out.

You must also ensure your car is correctly taxed. You can check if your car requires vehicle tax (or ‘road tax’) to be paid. The organisation in charge of vehicle tax and safety is called the DVLA. The DVLA can check if your car is taxed or has a valid MOT. 

You must tell the DVLA if you change your name or address, sell your vehicle or if you have a medical condition.

The only languages you can take a driving theory or practical test in are English, Welsh or British sign language.