Skip to main content

Birmingham – City of Sanctuary

Birmingham Mail calls for the city to lead the UK response to Europe’s refugee crisis

Birmingham is one of countless cities and towns responding to the greatest refugee crisis in living memory. The high profile newspaper, Birmingham Mail, headlined its support with the tragic and iconic image that has triggered an unprecedented outpouring of compassion across UK and Ireland.

A paramilitary police officer carries the lifeless body of a migrant child after a number of migrants died and a smaller number were reported missing after boats carrying them to the Greek island of Kos capsized, near the Turkish resort of Bodrum early Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015

Momentum has built over the summer as headline after headline drew attention to desperate people fleeing war-torn Syria and other global crisis spots. Thousands have lost their lives and tens of thousands are stuck en route. Calais, Lampedusa, Kos, Budapest – the same story of frightened uprooted men, women and children desperate to find sanctuary. Up till now, a lot of European and UK government rhetoric has tended towards building high walls, using terms like ‘illegal migrant’ and closing their ears to the cries for help. But this week, triggered by this iconic and tragic image and by the impassioned plea of a centre right female German leader, politicians and public, villages and cities, are calling for us to be a place of sanctuary. After seeing a parliament petition with over 300,000 signatures, and amidst cries of shame from every corner of the country and all sane political parties, the government has admitted we need to do more.

It has been exhilarating, emotional and exhausting. We have lost count of the offers we have had for media interviews, help, new groups, families and communities saying they can offer a home. Our local groups are doing a magnificent job with very few resources, and people are running campaigns, collecting clothes and talking to the media up and down the country. Social media-ites have sore thumbs with all the tweeting and petition signing and facebooking.

We have momentum. The message of sanctuary has hit home in ways we never dreamed of. Please, let’s keep it up. We have to harness all this energy and support, so that it’s not just a sudden and one-off brush with the media but a life-style change – a culture change. We’ve been talking about this for ten years. Let’s work together, let’s build networks, lets pace ourselves for the long haul, and let our memorial to this little boy and thousands of unnamed others be a strong and durable network where sanctuary is part of who we are.


Birmingham Mail article