City of Sanctuary is a movement to build a culture of hospitality for people seeking sanctuary in the UK. Our goal is to create a network of towns and cities throughout the country which are proud to be places of safety for people seeking sanctuary and helping them integrate into their local communities.
The City of Sanctuary movement began in October 2005 in Sheffield. In September 2007, with the support of the City Council and over 70 local community organisations, Sheffield became the UK’s first ‘City of Sanctuary’ – a city that takes pride in the welcome it offers to people in need of safety.
Since then, we have supported the development of over 90 City of Sanctuary initiatives in towns and cities across UK and Ireland. We believe the ‘sanctuary message’ of welcome and inclusion is needed in all spheres of society and as such we are committed to helping schools, universities, health and maternity services, theatres and arts centres, churches and other faith centres, sports, communities, businesses and homes become ‘places of sanctuary’. A key element of these ‘streams of sanctuary’ relationships is awareness raising, telling the true stories of refugees to those who never hear them.
We enjoy close partnerships with all the major refugee organisations and we are committed to working with them to build a Sanctuary Alliance, a united voice to advocate for refugees in our nations and worldwide who have no voice of their own.
Through creating a national network of Cities of Sanctuary, we aim to demonstrate the desire of people of goodwill throughout the country for a more just and humane approach to people seeking sanctuary in this country.
1. City of Sanctuary is a mainstream, grassroots movement.
Local groups work to build coalitions of organisations from all sectors (faith groups, voluntary, business, education, etc) which make a public commitment to welcome and include refugees and people seeking sanctuary in their usual activities. Local working groups should be representative of different sectors, not just refugee organisations, and the endorsement of local government should be sought on the basis of demonstrated community support, rather than being a ‘top-down’ council initiative.
2. City of Sanctuary works by creating opportunities for relationship between local people and those seeking sanctuary.
Where local organisations and communities include people seeking sanctuary in their activities, personal relationships will be formed which will lead to greater understanding and support from the host community. City of Sanctuary seeks to influence the political debate on sanctuary through cultural change, through a commitment to awareness raising right across society, and through the many partnerships we enjoy throughout and beyond the refugee sector.
3. City of Sanctuary offers a positive vision of a culture of hospitality for those in need of safety.
We encourage communities to take pride in offering a place of safety for people whose lives are threatened, and celebrating their contribution to our towns and cities. The focus is on those people who are forced to seek sanctuary rather than voluntary migration or diversity in general. At the same time we intend that the process of working for a culture of hospitality will also benefit other migrant groups, as well as host communities.