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A London City of Sanctuary group was formed in early 2009, the latest place in the UK to join a growing network of cities and towns dedicated to promoting a greater culture of welcome for people seeking sanctuary.

To mark Refugee Week 2009, the group is presenting its first ‘London Citizens of Sanctuary’ awards to 3 exceptional Londoners who embody the spirit and commitment to welcoming refugees which the City of Sanctuary movement is seeking to promote.

The awards will be presented at a special performance by Actors for Human Rights at the New Players Theatre on Sunday 21st of June.

The first three recipients are:

Juliet Stevenson – as well as being one of Britain’s most esteemed actresses, Juliet has been a long-standing campaigner for the rights of those seeking sanctuary in the UK, both directly and through her work as an actor. Most recently, she worked with Women for Refugee Women to produce and perform in Motherland at the Young Vic, which told the true stories of women and children locked up in the UK’s immigration detention centres.

Neil Gerrard MP for his work as a leading parliamentary champion on refugee and asylum issues. As a constituency MP, Neil has also devoted himself to helping new migrants in London and in increasing understanding between communities

Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Activist – for over 20 years of work supporting refugees both personally and through his campaigning to improve conditions and treatment of those genuinely seeking refuge in this country.

The Chair of London City of Sanctuary, Alexandra Feachem, said:

“Juliet Stevenson, Peter Tatchell and Neil Gerrard are people who in very different ways have shown passion and commitment to the cause of welcoming and helping individuals who have come to London to seek sanctuary. This work is not part of their ‘day jobs’, it is something they have chosen to devote time to. In recent years, standing up for refugees has not been a popular thing to do. But it is not true, as the press sometimes suggests, that everybody in London and the UK is anti-immigrant. There are many people who want to welcome migrants to our communities – and our first London Citizens of Sanctuary embody this spirit. Our aim win the London City of Sanctuary group is take steps to increase understanding of refugees in the capital through projects and initiatives to bring communities together. We are aiming to get London to declare itself as the first ever Olympic City of Sanctuary in 2012.”

These awards will be an annual event honouring individuals from all backgrounds, ranging from high profile people to ‘unsung heroes’. In future years, London City of Sanctuary will be inviting community groups from across the capital to forward nominations suggesting people they think deserve to be honoured as ‘London Citizens of Sanctuary’.

It is hoped that the Citizens will serve as an inspiration to others in promoting a culture of welcome in London and will act as ambassadors for London City of Sanctuary.