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Celebrating Sanctuary Online– 19th to 25th April

Celebrating Sanctuary – Week of online events (19th April to 25th April)

It has been a challenging twelve months for everyone, and during these difficult times our movement has  witnessed attacks on the right to seek sanctuary. Since the summer there was appalling media coverage and political scapegoating of people seeking sanctuary across the English Channel. As we know the negative media coverage is not new and there are often attempts to dehumanise the plight of the people in desperate need of sanctuary. We are acutely aware that media coverage is a major driver of negative public opinion, which then in turn influences political narratives and contributes to the creation of a hostile and unwelcoming environment for people seeking sanctuary. Social media is an echo chamber for wider narratives and an organising tool for the far-right – we need to do more to escape that narrative and tell the positive stories of welcome.

We are inviting groups to hold a ‘Celebrating Sanctuary’ online event during the week beginning 19th April to 25th April to:-

  • Make a public declaration of support for sanctuary and promote the success story of City of Sanctuary
  • Celebrate and promote the welcome offered to people seeking sanctuary across communities in all parts of the UK
  • Celebrate the positive contribution that people seeking sanctuary have made to our communities
  • Develop positive relationships with decision makers at local, national and UK level and raise their awareness of the welcome that is taking place in the communities they serve

We are encouraging groups to promote the positive stories of welcome from across their communities and to invite key influencers who have been involved in that welcome e.g. teachers, health professionals, faith leaders. We want decision makers to be aware of the broad based alliances and support that there is for people seeking sanctuary. As ever, in keeping with our network principles, people seeking sanctuary should be included as speakers and their contributions recognised, and of course also actively involved in planning and decision making.

We see the ‘Celebrating Sanctuary’ event as a pre-cursor to Refugee Week events (June) and the 70th Anniversary of the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (July). Moreover this could be a practice/planning event – in the hope that some face to face celebrations will be possible in the summer.

As always there is no pressure on any group to run an event in April, but in these difficult times we feel it offers a further opportunity in 2021 to proactively and sustainably promote a positive narrative. The CoS UK team will provide support to groups to plan their event by providing resources and guidance. 

Your local Celebrating Sanctuary event doesn’t have to be tied to any campaign asks, or necessarily focus on campaigning against measures we may see in new legislation introduced around April. It is more a response to the need to double our efforts to make the stories of welcome heard, and the benefits of having people seeking sanctuary living within our communities recognised.  A positive narrative building positive attitudes towards people seeking sanctuary is also part of the wider movement’s efforts in the longer to term to bring about change to the asylum system.

Events can be as small (or large) as you would like but we would encourage you to reach out to your local media to further promote the stories of welcome that you are sharing (thanks to IMIX we will be offering media training in March).  The key messages we would like to convey:-

  • There is broad public support for offering sanctuary to people fleeing violence and persecution (City of Sanctuary groups and mainstream institutions such as Schools of Sanctuary, Universities of Sanctuary is testimony to the fact that people across the UK support welcome).
  • The UK has a proud tradition of providing protection to people fleeing war, persecution and human rights abuses and we want decision makers across the UK to uphold this tradition.
  • People seeking sanctuary make a huge contribution to the communities in which they live, we recognise and celebrate those contributions.
  • A fair, safe and effective asylum system giving people the right to work and support for integration will have huge economic savings as well as build cohesive communities.

 ‘Save the Date’

City of Sanctuary UK will be holding an online launch event on Monday 19th April (10:00 – 11:30), details to follow soon.