This article was written by Will Sutcliffe, Chair of the Bradford City of Sanctuary. It is part of our series on Working with Local Authorities.
Local Authority Engagement
Launched in October 2008, Bradford was formally recognised as a City of Sanctuary by the national movement in November 2010. As early as March 2009 however Bradford Council passed a formal resolution of support – one of over 175 to date from local organisations, groups and faith communities.
The wider recognition from being part of a growing national movement has been a great help in our work with the Council and other bodies over the years: we have frequently heard and read the phrase “As a City of Sanctuary, Bradford should …..”
Bradford has been a Home Office asylum dispersal city since 1999; currently, over 1000 asylum seekers are housed in the city by Mears Group – a figure disproportionately higher than many other cities, though still within the Home Office per-head-of population ratios. Likewise, Bradford was one of the first (and still very few) cities participating in the UNHCR Gateway Protection (refugee resettlement) and VPRS Programmes. In addition, whilst the Council is unable to fund support for destitute, refused asylum seekers, it has shown considerable goodwill and non-monetary support to those VCS organisations in the city that do. In September 2012 it backed our partner organisation Destitution Concern Bradford’s launch of research into the extent and impact of destitution in the city, and in July 2013 it joined a number of other cities across the UK in passing a unanimous motion, condemning the use of destitution as a policy tool to force refused asylum seekers to leave the UK.
Consultation and participation
Our group is routinely invited to contribute to policy discussions relevant to asylum seekers and refugees, most significantly over the years as a member of a quarterly multi-agency forum. In 2018 we were commissioned to produce a consultation report for the Council’s Integrated Communities plan, identifying key issues impacting asylum seekers and refugees. We have also recently contributed to the Anti-poverty Strategy. We are very proud that Bradford is a member of the Intercultural Cities Network (https://www.coe.int/en/web/interculturalcities/bradford) and are currently working with the Council on the Anti-Rumour and Critical Thinking Strategy, which has issued from this. As a small group however it has often been difficult to be able to adequately respond to the range of opportunities presented. A case of reputation exceeding capacity!
It has been of great value to regularly meet with a nominated Assistant Director to ensure that our current concerns are heard as well as to better understand challenges facing the Council.
As well as some funding and considerable support in kind for the city’s annual Refugee Week celebrations, in which we play a significant part, the Council has publicly and enthusiastically backed a number of events that we have run over the years, including a celebration at City Hall in 2015 marking the renewal of Bradford’s City of Sanctuary recognition and our 10th-anniversary celebration in 2018.
At the latter, we launched our film ‘Voices’, celebrating Bradford as a City of Sanctuary (https://youtu.be/HfTv2QBT-HM) in which the Council’s Chief Executive enthusiastically endorsed our work and all that contributes to Bradford truly being a ‘city of sanctuary’.
Schools of Sanctuary (https://bradford.cityofsanctuary.org/sanctuary-in-schools)
Our successful Schools project was part-funded last year by the government’s Controlling Migration Fund, administered locally by the Council, who added significant advice and guidance.
Googling Bradford Council and ‘asylum’ takes enquirers to some helpful information, including an endorsement of and information about the Bradford City of Sanctuary: https://www.bradford.gov.uk/your-community/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/about-refugees-and-asylum-seekers/.
Our heavily used list of local agencies and other support for asylum seekers and refugees has recently been integrated into the Council’s own website, with a translate option: https://www.bradford.gov.uk/welcometobradford. We are excited to hear that the Council has just agreed to fund a collaborative project to develop a much-expanded site similar to the fantastic https://newtoleeds.org/.
We are immensely proud of all that makes Bradford truly a ‘city of sanctuary’ and the role of the Council here has been crucial over the years. Our approach has always been, where possible, collaboration rather than confrontation: we have found that mutual trust and respect has followed.
PS. We are very excited to be hosting the National Conference in June this year and hope to see many of you there!