Dr Yusuf Çiftçi is a campaigner and researcher for refugee and migrant rights. Passionate about co-production and meaningful engagement with people with lived experience, he works as a Policy and Advocacy Manager – Participation Lead at Doctors of the World (Medecins du Monde) leading participation projects with experts by experience of health exclusion and asylum system. he works with experts by experience of health exclusion within the group of National Health Advisors to facilitate coproduction of resources, services, interventions and campaigns, and he coordinates policy programmes to ensure inclusive access to healthcare for marginalised migrant groups. Yusuf volunteers at the VOICES Network to improve the UK immigration system through his lived experience. He was involved in organising Sanctuary in Politics course and supporting Sanctuary Ambassadors. He holds a PhD in Politics and International Relations from the University of Southampton and researches about asylum policy, coproduction, and refugee and migrant health.
Amani is a human rights activist, currently working as Specialist Sexual Violence Advocate for Nia Project, London. She comes from a multi-disciplinary background, being a doctor in Sudan and peacebuilding and development studies graduate. In addition to being a Chevening alumnus, the UK prestigious scholarships for young leaders worldwide, Amani is one of the Young African Leaders 2016 chosen by the US Department of State and one of the Young Arab Leaders 2016 chosen by Munathara Initiative. Amani is a known public speaker and political debater in the MENA region with a number of tv appearances in TV channels such as Aljazeera Live, Al Arabi TV and others.
Having started engaging with several non-profits in Sudan at a young age, she accumulated almost 10 years of experience working with the non-profit sector in Sudan and the UK. Most of those years she worked supporting vulnerable communities experiencing disadvantages due to their migration status such as internally displaced persons in conflict areas in Sudan and then volunteering with Healthwatch Stockton-On-Tees as a Research and Engagement Volunteer before she started her role as Community Empowerment Coordinator with the Regional Refugee Forum Northeast working and empowering Refugee Led Community Organisations.
A retired chartered accountant, I have been treasurer of City of Sanctuary since 2015. I am also treasurer of a Southampton based charity that provides support to asylum seekers and refugees.
Ben is a lifelong campaigner and activist. He has led global campaigns on poverty, inequality and climate change including as the campaigns director for the Global Call to Action Against Poverty and the Global Campaign for Climate Action. For several years Ben and his wife ran a project on a smallholding in Norfolk teaching permaculture and welcoming people seeking sanctuary on short breaks and courses. The Grange became the first recognised Home of Sanctuary and Ben was able to develop the Gardens of Sanctuary project using his experience from The Grange as a strong foundation. Ben was part of the City of Sanctuary team for 2 years until late 2019 first as regional coordinator for the Midlands, East and South East and then as Streams and Partnership Manager. In this role he led a major consultation across the movement on our work with Local Authorities, developed the Universities and Gardens streams and managed the England regional campaigning team. Ben is now working with a small US non-profit called Bridging Ventures leading projects with some of the world’s biggest NGOs, social movements and activist groups on corporate accountability, climate justice and economic justice. He is also co-director for COP 26 for The Climate Coalition in the UK. Ben lives in Norwich with his wife and 2 children.
Alice has spent over 19 years advocated for refugees and volunteered at the Reading Refugee Support Group (RRSG) both as vice-chair and chair, including being involved in the Gruntivig Women’s Project – Women Refugees Learning together in Europe. She is currently a trustee of the Reading City of Sanctuary was involved in its setting up; Vice-Chair for the Alliance for Cohesion and Racial Equality (ACRE) and a member of the Circle of Wise Women for Global Female Wave of Change. She started participating in Universities of Sanctuaries/Colleges of Sanctuary in the UK in 2019. She also advocates and portrays a more positive image of refugees, black women, and young people by participating in numerous projects and talks. She has done BBC television documentaries and interviews on refugees’ plight, poverty, and women and speaks at events and conferences.
Alice is currently in a post-viva stage of her PhD in Human Geography on Identity and Activities of Young Zimbabwean people in the UK. She works as Research Assistant at the University of Reading, and part of her role is being involved in Race Equality strategy at the University of Reading. She is a Labour and Cooperative Party Local Councillor for Whitley Ward since 2021.
She was given the most inspirational refugee women Driver’s Award in 2020. She nominated the Reading Refugee Support Group for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, and this was awarded in 2019, receiving from the Queen’s representative, the Sheriff of Berkshire. At Poole’s ceremony, she was given an Honorary Masters of Universities by the Open University in 2013 for her services to refugees, communities, education, and civil services. She was awarded by President Chissano of Mozambique in 1996 for her writing on working with culturally diverse communities. This was achieved while working as a Zimbabwe diplomat in Mozambique and preceded a posting to the former Yugoslavia, Belgrade.
Despite her adversity of losing seven family members in 13 years, Alice wrote a book DEAR GOD FROM YOUR POACHED EGG BREAST, about her breast cancer diagnosis in 2007, chemotherapy and mastectomy while studying. She continues to advocate for breast cancer awareness in women. She is married, lives with her husband & their dog Zii in Reading and between them they have 3 adult daughters.
For more information about Alice and her work please visit her https://www.alicempofucoles.com/
Jeff has worked with sanctuary seekers since 2006 when he trained with Freedom from Torture. He helped develop counselling facilities training programmes for those seeking protection in Manchester, Salford, London, Hull and Birmingham. He also tutors at REACHE, an educational project based in Salford Royal Hospital, specifically designed for refugees who were doctors in their homelands and now wish to continue their profession in the UK. REACHE supports its members to pass British medical examinations; to orientate their practice to the philosophy & regulation of the NHS, thereby gaining registration with the General Medical Council.
Jeff’s background is in Occupational Medicine and Mental Health. Before retirement he worked as “company doctor” to a wide variety of industrial, commercial & service organisations in the public, private and third sectors. These ranged from universities, the nuclear industry, local authorities and police forces in England to preserved steam railways in North Wales and the Church of South India. For 9 years he was also a psychiatrist in rural Gwynedd, establishing a therapeutic community in an attractive seaside location where survivors of trauma could experience intensive counselling in a relaxed & supportive setting.
He has worked for several movements to promote health and organisational development in Britain, Europe and South Asia. These have strived for the better management of stress & mental health in the workplace and, in the community, for the support of victims of serious crime, of families whose loved ones suffer dementia and, also, of those who have developed work-related cancer.
Within CoS, Jeff has served on subgroups to the Board for Human Resources, Funding and Strategy. He was involved in the distribution of funds from the Guardian Christmas Appeal, the development of our Health Stream and the production of the Mental Health Resource Pack.
Jeff lives in an oak forest in North Wales, from where he coordinates CoS groups, partnerships & events in the NW of England and also offers a link between our sister movement in Ireland & the UK board.
I’m passionate about building a culture of welcome in Brighton, have been involved in my local City of Sanctuary group since its inception and am currently Chair. I’m a proud Trustee of the Hummingbird Refugee Project, which supports young refugees in the Brighton area, many of whom we met in the Calais “Jungle”.
Professionally, I’m a consultant specialising in asylum and migration in Europe, building on my earlier experience of policy and advocacy work at the Refugee Council and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) in Brussels. As a director of MigrationWork CIC, I help people in European cities learn from each other about how to make migration work for everyone.
I moved to the voluntary sector in 1988 from a career in broadcast journalism, by way of a horizon-expanding year studying under Lord Young at his newly established School for Social Entrepreneurs.
Rebecca is the Refugee Resettlement and Asylum Dispersal Lead for Lancashire County Council and coordinates the housing and casework provision for over 700 refugees. She has previously worked in refugee camps in both Greece and France and founded Lancaster and Morecambe City of Sanctuary in 2015 upon return from one of her trips to ‘The Jungle’ in Calais. Rebecca previously managed Marsh Community Centre which was awarded The Guardian Charity of the Year Award for its community integration work. Rebecca is a Qualified Social Worker and previously specialized in Criminal Justice, holding jobs in London as a Gangs Worker and in New Orleans as a Mitigation Investigator on Death Row. She has written two books: Starting Social Work: Reflections of a Newly Qualified Social Worker and A Taste Of Home: Home-Cooked Recipes from Syrian Refugees Living in the UK and was a Contributor for The Guardian from 2010 to 2015. She is a Mother to three children and in November 2020 her husband received refugee status after three and a half years of navigating the asylum system in the UK.
Inderjit Bhogal (Patron and Founder)
Inderjit Singh Bhogal founded City of Sanctuary, alongside Craig Barnett, in Sheffield in 2005. He is a leading Theologian and Methodist Minister; a former President of the Methodist Conference and former Leader/CEO of the Corrymeela Community.
Inderjit was born into a Sikh family in Nairobi and came with them in 1964 to live in Dudley, West Midlands. He took his first Degree in Manchester and then his Masters Degree in Oxford. Inderjit lived in Wolverhampton for 8 years where he helped to establish one of the first interfaith groups in UK and was Co-ordinator of the Group between 1984–1987. Inderjit then lived in Sheffield where he worked in Multi-Faith inner city contexts. He established a Christian–Muslim Group out of which grew the Sheffield Interfaith Group. He has also organised Christian–Muslim Peace walks in the City. Inderjit helped to start Sheffield’s ‘Homeless and Rootless at Christmas’ (HARC) project. This has involved several hundred volunteers.
For more information about Inderjit and his work please visit his website.
Sabir Zazai (Honorary President)
Sabir, a former refugee from Afghanistan, is the Chief Executive of Scottish Refugee Council. He used to be the Centre Director of Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre (CRMC), an organisation that once helped Sabir through his own settlement in Coventry. He is also chair of the Coventry Ethnic Minorities Action Partnership (CEMAP) and he previously managed the Migration Impact Fund locally. He also led ‘Sorted’ a major improving financial confidence programme at Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau. Sabir’s knowledge of the difficulties faced by refugees is strengthened by the practical experiences of going through the asylum system and by researching the subject of refugee integration through his MA studies at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University.