Bristol set to become UK’s third ‘city of sanctuary’

The city council has voted overwhelmingly that Bristol should become the third City of Sanctuary in the UK.

Bristol is set to become a city that officially welcomes refugees and asylum seekers and aims to make them an integral part of the community.

The move is backed by Bristol NUJ as well as scores of other organisations.

Bristol has long had a reputation as one of Britain’s friendliest, most welcoming cities. Many people fleeing war, human rights abuses and persecution have found refuge in the city and now call it home.

Bristol City of Sanctuary is the local group of a national movement of people and organisations working to make their city a place of welcome and safety for those seeking sanctuary from war and persecution. Bristol City of Sanctuary put a motion before the full council on Tuesday 16th November asking them to acknowledge the contribution of people seeking sanctuary to the city of Bristol.

The vote was overwhelming – 51 votes for, two against and 10 abstentions.

The council was asked to adopt the following statement:

“This Council recognises the contribution of asylum seekers and refugees to the City of Bristol and is committed to welcoming and including them in our activities.

“The council also recognises that a comprehensive, co-ordinated and forward-looking approach is needed if City of Sanctuary, the welfare of people moving in to the city, and community cohesion between new and existing communities are to be supported effectively. The Council endorses Bristol’s status as a City of Sanctuary and will work to implement the City of Sanctuary pledges through its Community Cohesion Strategy 2010-13.”

City of Sanctuary is a national movement aiming to build a culture of hospitality for people seeking sanctuary in the UK. Its goal is to create a network of towns and cities which are proud to be places of safety and which include people seeking sanctuary fully in the life of their communities. The Bristol City of Sanctuary group now has the support of over 100 community organisations, charities, faith groups and local businesses including Rolls-Royce, GWE Business West, The Society of Merchant Venturers, Oxfam, The Clifton Diocese, Barnardo’s, the Methodists in the West of England, South West Trade Union Council, the National Union of Journalists Bristol Branch and Amnesty among many other organisations.

Dr John Savage CBE, Executive President, GWE Business West, in his letter pledging support to Bristol City of Sanctuary said: “I have pleasure in enclosing the “pledge of support” on behalf of GWE Business West in the first step in the process of Bristol becoming recognized as a ‘City of Sanctuary’ for refugees and asylum seekers.”

He added: “I wish you every success in your partnership with the community, voluntary and public sector organisations with this venture.”

In a statement, although the Trust has not yet submitted its signed pledge, Christina Gray, Associate Director of Public Health – Equality & Inclusion, Bristol Primary Care Trust said: “We continue in our commitment to working in partnership to ensure that those seeking asylum and refuge in Bristol are treated with care, dignity and respect. We continue to fund the Haven a dedicated health service for asylum seekers which also provides specialist advice to GP practices delivering services for refugees.”

Elinor Harris, Bristol Area Manager of Refugee Action, a national charity which works directly with asylum seekers and refugees, says “The good news for us is the levels of attack, and fear of attack, expressed by our service users in Bristol have been consistently lower than in any other major city in which we work. So although we have far to go, we have a strong basis on which to do it, & a level of welcome & acceptance of which we can be proud.”

Harris added: “City of Sanctuary is not about numbers. It will not bring any more people to the city. Indeed both Swansea & Sheffield, our predecessors as Cities of Sanctuary, have greater numbers of asylum seekers and refugees in their communities than Bristol.”

Forward Maisokwadzo, Development Worker at Bristol City of Sanctuary adds: “The City of Sanctuary initiative is a great opportunity to dispel many of the myths about asylum seekers and refugees who have arrived here seeking safety.

“Becoming a City of Sanctuary will show that Bristol is still a welcoming, tolerant city, where people from a wide range of backgrounds can live together happily. After all, Bristol is said to be Britain’s friendliest city – this is one important way of proving that.”

  • For all media enquiries relating to this press release, please contact Forward Maisokwadzo, Development Worker on: 0117 941 5960 or 079 19894 900 / June Burrough, Chair, City of Sanctuary: 0117 924 4512

Notes for Editors:

Email: Bristol@cityofsanctuary.org

Bristol City of Sanctuary – is a movement to build a culture of hospitality for people seeking sanctuary (asylum seekers & refugees) in the UK. Bristol-once known as a city of slavery- is growing now into a city of sanctuary.www.cityofsanctuary.org/bristol

Bristol Refugee Rights was set up in 2005 to uphold and champion the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees. They provide a place of welcome in Bristol where asylum seekers and refugees can meet and be supported to play a full part in the life of the wider community and also campaign for the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers. www.bristolrefugeerights.org

Refugee Action is an independent, national charity working to enable refugees to build new lives in the UK. They provide practical advice and assistance for newly arrived asylum seekers and support their settlement through community development work. As one of the country’s leading agencies in the field, Refugee Action has 28 years’ experience in pioneering innovative work in partnership with refugees and advised more than 40,000 asylum seekers and refugees last year. For more information, visit www.refugee-action.org.uk

Filed Under: Branch NewsNational NUJ

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