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Putting asylum fears into perspective.

From Huguenots to Vietnamese boat people, 19th century Jews to 20th century Ugandan Asians, Basque child evacuees to Somalian refugees and Kosovan asylum seekers, Wales has provided an escape route for those fleeing religious persecution, war and political oppression for more than 300 years.

In the third part of Wales: The Making Of A People, broadcaster Sian Williams traces the compelling stories of those who have risked death to build new lives in Wales.

Those individuals include Themba Moyo, a Zimbabwean who came to Wales when he felt his life was in peril.

A successful record producer and supporter of Zimbabwe's opposition party, he was forced to flee his home and affluent lifestyle after his studio was mysteriously burned down.

It was a decision Themba never thought he would have to make.

'Asylum seekers, refugees...those words were never in my vocabulary,' he says.

Cardiff author Ruth Joseph describes how her mother was rescued from Nazi Germany as a 12-year-old child in an operation known as the Kinderstransport.

'Around her 16th birthday, she heard that her father - the chief rabbi of Hamburg - her mother and her three little sisters had been murdered in the Bikernieker forest where they were forced to strip and dig their own graves.'

There are more stories, including Paula Hanford's. She came to Wales from Bilbao as a child in 1937 to escape the Spanish Civil War.

Alongside her sisters and friends, she found safety in Pendragon House in Caerleon, where local people raised 10 shillings a week to clothe and feed each child.

Many of the children eventually made their way back to Spain but Paula stayed, married a Welsh boy and raised a family.

Almost 70 years later she lives in Skewen but she says she still has a place in her heart for Spain.

At a time when negative headlines about immigration and asylum seekers are rife, the series aims to provide some perspective.

'The stories we tell in the series are vivid - stories of great courage mixed with tragedy, ambition and a sense of adventure,' said executive producer Chris Stuart of Presentable, which made the series for BBC Wales.

'It puts today's concerns over refugees, asylum seekers and immigration into a more pragmatic context.'

Wales: The Making Of A People is on BBC1 Wales tonight at 10.40pm
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 18, 2006
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