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Newcastle Council: the newest awarded Local Authority of Sanctuary

We are delighted to welcome Newcastle City Council as an awarded Local Council of Sanctuary.

This is an absolutely huge achievement involving the whole council, local refugee support groups, people with lived experience of seeking sanctuary and the wider community. This phenomenal work will change lives.

We are a city built on solidarity, and we are proud to welcome people seeking safety. In the face of relentless Government hostility towards people seeking asylum, we do whatever we can to support people as they rebuild their lives.

Councillor Paula Maines says:

“Newcastle is a City of Sanctuary. We are a city built on solidarity, and we are proud to welcome people seeking safety. In the face of relentless Government hostility towards people seeking asylum, we do whatever we can to support people as they rebuild their lives.

Every day we support people to overcome the huge obstacles the UK’s asylum system throws in their way: the endless limbo of waiting for a decision; being banned from working and using their skills and talents; having little choice but to live in often harmful, inappropriate accommodation

We know that this is not what Newcastle stands for. Council has passed a unanimous motion to fight these anti-refugee measures, and every day, our communities work together to make our city a more welcoming, joyful place.”

Newcastle has been welcoming people seeking sanctuary for many years. While those seeking asylum have no choice over where in the UK they are dispersed to, the city has taken great pride in the fact that so many people have chosen to settle there once their claim for asylum has been determined.

As a city, they are committed to doing what they can to welcome those seeking sanctuary and to help rebuild lives.

Newcastle is proud to be part of a number of schemes that bring people seeking sanctuary to the city for protection:

  • Refugee Resettlement Scheme: this includes Syrians and other vulnerable families – there will be 90 families by 2020.
  • Since 2014 Newcastle has worked alongside the Government to offer resettlement support to Afghan locally engaged staff who had worked alongside the British Army.
  • More recently they have committed to support Afghan families under the Government’s extended Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP), which seeks to relocate Afghans who worked closely with the British military and UK Government in Afghanistan, recognising the risk posed to these staff due to their employment.
  • They are currently working at pace to resettle these families in Newcastle. We are working closely with partners to see if we can extend this offer and rapidly secure suitable accommodation for families who have recently been evacuated from Afghanistan. Newcastle has been able to respond quickly, due to their ongoing and well-established City of Sanctuary network and will align this work with their existing refugee resettlement programmes.
  • Unaccompanied Children: they have a number of young people who arrive in the City with no parents or guardians and are part of a scheme that brings vulnerable young people to the UK under a resettlement scheme.
  • Asylum dispersal: Newcastle has been welcoming asylum seekers and refugees through the Home Office’s contracted dispersal programme since 1999. They currently have over 1000 asylum seekers dispersed in the city; many will have their applications for refugee status accepted. We have also delivered a number of Government resettlement schemes, welcoming families from Eritrea, Iraq, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Syria.
  • Hosting City of Sanctuary: City of Sanctuary is a national movement, which holds the vision that our nations will be welcoming places of safety for all and proud to offer sanctuary to people fleeing violence and persecution. Here in Newcastle the City Council hosts the coordinator of this work.

Through their City of Sanctuary approach, Newcastle aspire to embed sanctuary principles across all Council services so that the particular challenges facing refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are considered and addressed in the way local services are provided.

The Council of Sanctuary award was handed out during Refugee Week 2023 at the same time that they launched their Council of Sanctuary Strategy.

The strategy was informed by research with teams across the City Council, with their partners across the voluntary and community sector and with people seeking sanctuary in Newcastle to develop their Council of Sanctuary Strategy. In this strategy, they will tell the story of Newcastle as a City of Sanctuary and look ahead to how they can strengthen their work and support for people who arrive in Newcastle.

The City of Sanctuary Local Authority Network is a movement of local councils who are working to create a culture of welcome, inclusion and empowerment for people seeking sanctuary.

Read Newcastle City Council press release here.