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Peter Tatchell London joined 11 other UK cities in a move to become a ‘City of Sanctuary’ for refugees and people claiming sanctuary in the UK, with a launch event at St Martin-in-the-Fields on Trafalgar Square last week.

London is the latest city to form its own group, with an ambitious aim to build a grassroots, city-wide movement of support for people seeking sanctuary in the capital. Alexandra Feachem, from the London City of Sanctuary group, said, “Our ambition is to see thousands of London organisations, from top businesses, football clubs and cultural institutions, to community groups and residents associations, all pledging their support for declaring London as an Olympic City of Sanctuary. Then for the Mayor and the GLA to take up the idea, so that by 2012 we see refugees at the heart of the Olympic Celebrations.”

At the meeting on 12th November, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell (pictured above) spoke in support of the new movement, from his own experience of supporting a refugee doctor who had been targeted by a death squad in Iraq for his sexuality. Neil Gerrard MP also welcomed the initiative, as a way of bringing sanctuary for people who are persecuted back into the mainstream.

Craig Barnett, the national co-ordinator for the City of Sanctuary movement, encouraged Londoners to seize the opportunity to make a difference to the way the UK treats people in need of safety. “Cities are powerful,” he said. “A city which is committed to offering sanctuary can’t be ignored as a lobby group. By building a network of Cities of Sanctuary across the country we can change the whole debate about refugees, and transform what is politically possible to improve the way we offer them safety and welcome.”

The London City of Sanctuary group is now looking for volunteers to help them to develop a city-wide movement. If you would like to be involved, please contact them at: [email protected]

Read more on this event on the BBC London website.