By Judy Jacques and Jagat Chatrath

We are writing to invite everyone in our community to support declaring St Albans as a City of Sanctuary and to support the lifting of the ban on the right to work for people seeking asylum. Our community and Council is already actively engaged in helping support refugees and this will be a further step to keep the momentum going.

On 3 November, over 150 people came together at Friends House in London for a gathering of City of Sanctuary groups and supporters from London and the South East. Several cities were represented including colleges, schools, theatres and refugee charities – all with a shared commitment to creating a place of welcome for people fleeing violence and persecution and seeking sanctuary. Valuable encouragement and wisdom were offered to new groups and supporters attending for the first time by those who are more established and experienced. We attended this event as supporters.

We learnt that there are now over one hundred “cities” of sanctuary in the UK. Whilst various local organisations and local groups are actively supporting and helping refugees settling in St Albans, the city has yet to formally declare itself as a City of Sanctuary. We feel that this would be a positive step for our city. There are many ways in which cities can show support for City of Sanctuary. One key action is to demonstrate political leadership in recognising that asylum seekers are entitled to claim asylum under the law, that they have fled persecution and that they deserve our welcome and support. One of the most visible ways of showing support is for the council to pass a formal motion of support. In addition, support would be sought from faith and civil society groups and members of the business community – indeed, from all who wish to express their common humanity in practical ways.

A further issue is the lifting of the current ban on the “right to work” for people seeking asylum. The current situation is that people seeking asylum in the UK are effectively prohibited from working. Enabling people to work will provide them with the human dignity of being able to provide for themselves and their families, if they are able. The Lift the Ban coalition, made up of over 80 non-profit organisations, think tanks, businesses and faith groups, is calling on the UK Government to give people seeking asylum and their adult dependants the right to work. A reform of the current policy would benefit around 10,000 people nationwide.

We feel our council should consider passing a formal motion of support by declaring St Albans as a City of Sanctuary. We also feel that our MP (Anne Main), should lend her support to the lifting of the ban by raising the profile of the issue in Parliament and voting in favour of reform when the opportunity arises. This would enable people who have risked everything to find safety in our country to have the best chance of contributing to society and feel valued and supported in our communities.

People’s voices will count here. We encourage you to write to your local representative for the district and to your MP to let them know that you support declaring St Albans as a City of Sanctuary and to get legislation passed to lift the ban on the “right to work” for people seeking asylum.

Find out more at about lift the ban here

This letter was published in The Herts Advertiser