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CoS AGM – inspires delegates

Personal notes on the AGM from Joseph Chivayo, Derby CoS and Red Cross volunteer:

The AGM was a great event and kicked off with Network Coordinator Tiffy addressing the delegates and reflecting on the year so far with Sanctuary in Parliament, Sanctuary Summit in Birmingham and the Ending Destitution conference in Bristol.

Its been 10 years since the initial idea of a city of welcome, safety and protection was conceived in Sheffield,  having a place of Sanctuary and now more than 40 cities have become part of this great initiative.

When we talk about Sanctuary we are overwhelmed by the need within the world we live. Consider what’s happening in the Mediterranean Sea, thousands of lives being lost, the current xenophobic political spectrum in UK, the xenophobic attacks of foreigners in South Africa and the overall instability in the world. Yet despite these challenges we have people from around the country and world looking for ways to support and help those who are vulnerable. That compassion should always inspire us to stand stronger , speak out and fight for the vulnerable and voiceless.

A new role of communications manager is now in place and Forward Maiskwadzo from CoS Bristol will lead that great part of CoS National. The main hope and vision is many people who have gone through the asylum journey and process would share their stories and inspire people while also educating and raising awareness within the community.

Refugee Council CEO, Maurice Wren noted we should always Educate, Agitate and Organise. With the new government coming IMG_20150420_103743678within next few weeks we have a challenge regardless, as the asylum system is not fit for purpose. There’s NO change in policy possible without public support. It’s the grass root organisations and how they shape peoples perspective and view of specific issues affecting their communities and CoS plays a crucial part through dealing with challenges facing asylum seekers and refugees on a daily basis. Dealing with people as human beings and not as statistics and reports like the Home Office and local authorities.  Shared Place, shared space and shared vision.

Issues we face at the moment
1. Forced Displacement and Crisis in North Africa and Middle East. Europe and UK are presenting themselves as bystanders and now is the time to mobilise and stand to that challenge. We need reinstatement of search and rescue service. Argue for safe and legal routes for people seeking protection.
2. All Parliamentary Party Group Detention Inquiry  Report was a success highlighting the challenges and plight of asylum seekers and refugees in UK. We need to keep pressure on parliament on detention and ensure people are not dehumanised.
3. Disarray in Refugee Protection System. Consistent inconsistent decision making process with treacherous impact of lives and children.
4. The asylum support system. Bureaucratic, amateurish system not fit for purpose, forcing people to be destitute and stack in poverty. When people are in poverty are in high propensity of abuse.
5. Integration plays a crucial part and the work of CoS and other communities including Upbeat Communities. Valuable human asset being treated as a burden.

CoS Key Steps Forward.
1. Sensitize people, Engage with people and Inspire people
2. Create Space through providing support for integration, policy makers, decision makers and local communities
3. Importance of main streaming ie housing, destitution, health care, education, poverty and employment as issues not just affecting refugees but issues affecting everyone in community
4. To what extent are you committed to changing things, mobilise and demand change in public policy.

We have a key challenge of engaging with policy makers and media to look at the role of immigrants in a factual manner.

CoS Chair, Alan Thomas presented The Grange with the First Home of Sanctuary Award for supporting and providing accommodation and a therapeutic retreat for refugees and asylum seekers, in partnership with Freedom from Torture and Room to Heal.  Encouragement for more businesses, homes and various institutions to become places of Sanctuary.

The Public Awareness Seminar was fiery and that’s great to see the passion. The group spoke about the importance of speaking to the public in schools, business and politicians as that shows the positive impact immigrants have. Need to use all sorts of media to communicate our message and celebrate the things we do well.

Mike Kay: Still Human Still Here chaired the sub group on Raising Awareness and Campaigning:Cos AGM 2015 (3)
How to Campaign Effectively: Key Questions to ask yourself
1. What’s the problem
2. Why is it urgent
3. What’s the possible solution
4. What are the benefits for your solution

Local organisations CoS need to start using the Birmingham Declaration , Bristol conference on ending asylum destitution and APPG report on detention to campaign and lobby and also engage with local media thereby raising awareness and encouraging people to learn more about the true impact of immigration.

Personally, I was very inspired by the momentum and passion for creating not only cities and towns of Sanctuary but a country, continent and world of Sanctuary. In time, I’m sure its all possible.