Click on a Trustee’s name to read their personal statement.
Alan Thomas - Swansea
Co-founder of Swansea City of Sanctuary and has been Chair of Trustees of the national City of Sanctuary charity since October 2011. He is a Quaker and a retired academic, having been Professor of International Development at the Centre for Development Studies, Swansea University and previously a co-founder of the Development Policy and Practice group and the Global Programme in Development Management at The Open University.
Andrew White (Treasurer) - Southampton
Chartered accountant aged 65 and mostly retired. Co-opted as national City of Sanctuary treasurer.
For 25 years up to 2013, finance director of group of private companies trading from 15+ locations in England. Role included responsibility for IT, HR, payroll, insurance, pensions etc.
Currently trustee and treasurer of asylum support charity in Southampton. He also volunteers for a local Citizen’s Advice Bureau and is involved in local community activities. Other interests include cricket and gardening.
Betty Nyamwenge - Cardiff
“My name is Betty Nyamwenge, I am a refugee born in Uganda.
I came in this country seeking asylum and I have lived in wales for 12 years. Cardiff my home town. I am very friendly and caring, able to prioritise and complete tasks. I have gained very good communication skills during my experience of working as a volunteer in community groups within the church and outside with the community, working also in the beauty industry and from the volunteering at Oasis Cardiff. I enjoy helping to make a difference and team playing with different peoples and Organisations.
Working gives me pleasure and provides me with different experiences and challenges. I am able to follow instructions and can pick up new skills easily. I am interested in learning more while working. Always engaged in new courses to improve my skills and acquiring new ones. I am in several charitable activities from volunteering in the church as Community outreach representative, linking and working with the community, I have been volunteering with Oasis Cardiff for about 3 years it gave me pleasure to engage with the multicultural environment Oasis hosts. I was nominated Chair of Cardiff City of Sanctuary in summer 2015 after being involved in the sanctuary movement meeting at Westminster and in Birmingham. This experience has equipped me to be able to give speeches on several occasions in various places representing Cardiff City of Sanctuary.
I have passion in the works which aim to make the difference in people’s lives which would involve working with other people who are like minded fighting for the same cause. I like having fun with the team, family and friends. I like meeting and working with people in new and different environments.”
Caroline Beatty - Bristol
“Since 2003 I have been privileged to work broadly with refugees and sanctuary seekers in Bristol – as a volunteer with Refugee Action, as an ally and admin worker with newly formed Refugee Women of Bristol, and as a member of Bristol Defend Asylum Seekers Campaign. I began as the first paid coordinator (one day / week) for Bristol Refugee Rights in 2006, and retired as manager of BRR in 2014, which over 8 years has grown into a thriving organization, including the fundamental welcome service, language tuition, advocacy support, and a volunteering programme, coordinated by 12 part-time staff. The philosophy of BRR is contained in its key message “Safety – Solidarity – Action for Change” i.e., first create a place of welcome and safety, then develop solidarity, and then work together in practical ways to bring about change.
“Bristol became a City of Sanctuary in 2011. In Bristol we have focused on networking with the wide range of excellent local organisations and enabling the voice of sanctuary seekers to be heard in the city. We have many active campaigners including both sanctuary seekers and allies.
“I am convinced that the City of Sanctuary movement can help create a climate and platform in and from which to produce real change in public attitudes and policy responses towards refugees. As a trustee, I should be glad to support its work and continue to enable the direct voice of sanctuary seekers to be heard through the national City of Sanctuary network.”
Duncan Wells - Leeds
Duncan Wells has been involved with City of Sanctuary for many years and has supported many Yorkshire and Humberside groups as well as national staff in many practical ways through his various leadership roles in the sector. He is now Head of Resettlement for the Refugee Council in Yorkshire and Humberside. Duncan says:
“I am excited by the prospect of joining the City of Sanctuary board and believe I am well placed to make a worthwhile contribution in this role for the following reasons:
- My passion and enthusiasm for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers to settle, find sanctuary, integrate and carve out meaningful lives in their new society.
- My experience of working directly with refugees and asylum seekers for over 15 years in a range of different capacities (including housing, employment, education, training, advocacy and resettlement) to aid their integration
- My range of networks, contacts and good reputation in the migration sector in Yorkshire and Humberside
- My ability to think creatively and develop new initiatives that in the past has involved partnering with City of Sanctuary to deliver new activities such as Welcome to Leeds and awareness raising in schools.
I believe in the ethos of the City of Sanctuary movement wholeheartedly and in my current role as Head of Resettlement I actively promote the movement in towns and cities across the region. I long to see communities across the UK transformed to be more informed, hospitable and compassionate towards refugees and asylum seekers and I believe the work of City of Sanctuary plays a very important role in seeing this transformation take place.”
Herbert Dirahu - Newcastle
“Currently working for the Regional Refugee Forum as Project Manager working with Refugee Community Organisations across the North East Region. I am a member of all the 3 City of Sanctuary initiatives in Newcastle, Sunderland and Teesside. I have worked with Refugees and Sanctuary Seekers for about 10 years in the North East of England and participate in most of the key stakeholder platforms in that region. I would like to contribute my experience and knowledge for the continuous strengthening of the City of Sanctuary movement to build a culture of hospitality for people seeking sanctuary in the UK.”
Jeff Morgan - Manchester/Health
Jeff has worked with sanctuary seekers since 2006 when he trained with Freedom from Torture. Subsequently he helped develop counselling facilities & training programmes within several communities of AS&Rs in Manchester, Salford, London, Hull and Birmingham. He is also a tutor at REACHE, an educational project based in Salford Royal Hospital, specifically designed for sanctuary seekers who were doctors in their homelands and now wish to continue their profession in the UK. REACHE supports its members to pass UK 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, social work teams & 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 location where survivors of trauma could experience intensive counselling in a relaxed & supportive seaside setting.
He has been a member of several movements that aimed to change societal & legislative stance in the UK, Europe and the Indian subcontinent. These include the better management of stress & mental health in the workplace, the support of victims of crime & their families in the community & the law courts, the care of families in underdeveloped regions whose loved ones suffer dementia and, also, the development of humane organisations & institutions through specialist training of their HR personnel and senior management.
Jeff works on various subgroups to the Board, including Human Resources & the Distribution of funds from the Guardian Christmas Appeal. He plays an active role in developing ideas for the Health Stream & is currently part of the small specialist team putting together the CoS’s Mental Health Resource Pack. He is closely involved with the activities & management of the Manchester group & offers support & guidance to new grassroots initiatives springing up throughout the North West. Jeff lives in North Wales &, from there, also hopes to offer a link between the work in Ireland & the UK board.
Jeni Vine (Secretary) - Sheffield
Jeni Vine provides coaching, consultancy, facilitation and training and specialises in working with the voluntary sector (also known as the third sector), social enterprises and with cultural industries in the Yorkshire and Humber region of the UK and with international NGOs in Latin America. Jeni brings 25 years of experience of management and leadership, working with and mentoring individuals, community groups and organisations. She has also been a community filmmaker working in the creative industries. Since 2009, Jeni has developed close working relationships with a wide range of organisations empowering and supporting refugees and asylum-seekers in Yorkshire and Humber, mentoring refugee leaders, supporting small groups to develop governance structures, working with consortia to build strategies to promote community cohesion, managing community development projects and organising training and development opportunities for those working in the sector. She lives in Sheffield.
John Mellor - Ripon
Prior to retirement in 2003: 40 years of higher education including Professor of Chemistry, Head of Department of Chemistry and member of Senate and Council of University of Southampton;
2004 -2006: 2 years work with Voluntary Service Overseas in Eritrea as a Professor of Chemistry
2006 -2013 voluntary work including trusteeship and Chair of Fundraising with the Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group (a group supporting destitute asylum seekers)
2007 – 2013 Trustee of Sarum Theological College, Salisbury
2008 – 2013 Chair of Management of the Avenue Multicultural Centre with responsibility for fundraising (the one stop drop-in centre for asylum seekers and refugees in Southampton)
1988 – 2013 Chair of the Trustees or a Trustee with responsibility for fundraising of the Avenue Centre, a Family Centre receiving highly vulnerable families by referral from the health and social service sectors.
2006 – 2009 Chair of the Local Management Committee supporting the placement of a Church Related Community Worker at Avenue St Andrew’s (ASA) United Reformed Church in Southampton and 2009 – 2013 Member of the national committee of the United Reformed Church responsible for Church Related Community Workers
2006 -2012 Chair of ASA/Medina Mosque Group exploring joint social outreach
Personal statement: “My wife, Janet and I moved to Ripon in August 2014 to be close to our children and grandchildren, who all live nearby. Having moved on from Southampton activities, I wish to support asylum seekers and refugees in the North. I have visited activities in Leeds, Middlesbrough and York and hope to support work, not greatly distant from Ripon. I believe there is a vacuum with respect to a national voice effectively opposing the positions adopted by Migration Watch and much of the media. I hope through working with the City of Sanctuary movement to learn whether our national voice should be best expressed in writing, in lobbying or by other tactics, possibly in collaboration with others. I will be happy to support City of Sanctuary in many ways including fundraising, searching to change the increasingly adverse national views of asylum seekers and refugees and to give local practical support.”
Jonathan Ellis (Vice-Chair) - London
Jonathan Ellis is currently Head of Policy, Research and Advocacy at the British Red Cross and is Vice-Chair of Trustees of the national City of Sanctuary charity. He is also a visiting lecturer at City University in London on the MA in political communication. In addition he leads advocacy campaigns training for BOND, INTRAC, NVCO and the Sheila McKechnie Foundation.
Previously he was director of advocacy at the British Refugee Council, chief executive at the Empty Homes Agency and has led UK and international campaigns for Oxfam GB. He has extensive experience of delivering advocacy campaigns training and support across the world including: Bangladesh, Haiti, Nigeria, Somaliland, South Africa, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand and across Europe.
Jonathan is also Chair of the Bishop Simeon Trust (supporting orphans and vulnerable children in South Africa) and a trustee of the Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum (MRCF) in West London.
Jon Featonby - London
Jon is currently the Parliamentary Manager at the Refugee Council having previously worked for a Member of Parliament in Westminster and has been a trustee since 2015. Jon has helped to organised the first two Sanctuary in Parliament events and regularly talks to parliamentarians about the issues facing refugees and asylum seekers. He is closely involved in the work of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees including drafting the final report of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Immigration Detention.
“Since first working closely with City of Sanctuary on organising the first ever Sanctuary in Parliament in 2014, I have been captivated by the energy and dedication everyone involved with City of Sanctuary shows. City of Sanctuary has a central role to play in building a movement to make sure the UK is welcoming to those who seek sanctuary here and as a trustee it is a privilege to be involved.”
Kay Polley - Wrexham
Kay Polley is the lead community organiser at TCC (Trefnu Cymunedol Cymru / Together Creating Communities), a diverse alliance of groups in North Wales. Kay trains community leaders to run strategic campaigns and work with power-holders to create change, and also represents TCC on the Welsh Refugee Coalition. TCC’s most recent campaign was successfully getting Wrexham Council to commit to welcoming Syrian refugees.
As lead organiser Kay supports adults and young people to become active citizens, and recently has been working with a group of students hoping to make their school North Wales’ first School of Sanctuary.
Through running TCC Kay has experience of delivering training, running campaigns, managing staff, strategic planning, grant-writing, event planning, and recruitment. Prior to this she was service coordinator for the British Red Cross in Wrexham, Oxfam Outreach coordinator in the Midlands, and graduated from Warwick University. She lives in Llangollen with her husband and dog.
Marzia Babakarkhail - Oldham
After coming to Britain in 2008 as an asylum seeker, Marzia learned and continues to improve her English, and she became a British citizen in June 2016. She has volunteered with the British Red Cross, HARP project and Oldham Unity Project helping destitute asylum seekers, as well as for UKEFF Project working with vulnerable residents of Oldham.
She has also campaigned on a wide range of issues with Debbie Abrahams M.P. and her team and have involved myself in a wide range of interpreting situations with various organisations in Oldham.
Prior to fleeing Afghanistan, where Marzia was a family court judge and targeted by the Taliban for her work on behalf of womens’ rights, she sat on the boards of ANCB, (Afghan NGOs Coordination Bureau), AWC, (Afghan Womens’ Council) and AWN, (Afghan Womens’ Network). She was also the chairperson for the Womens’ Committee of the ANCB from 2002 until escaping to the West.
She had already established the Afghan Womens’ Social Cultural Organisation in 1994. AWSCO’s mission is to “contribute to the rehabilitation and development of Afghanistan through the planning, designing and undertaking of economic and humanitarian assistance programs, as well as by developing the skills and capacity of Afghan women.” AWSCO has created numerous projects throughout central and northern Afghanistan as well as in Peshawar, Pakistan. The projects include handicraft/vocational training, education in computers and English, health awareness, emergency relief, human rights education, women development programs, housing construction, water supply, as well as women and social affairs projects.
Marzia actively encourages her fellow sanctuary seekers to make contact with local people and to focus their energies on learning English and interacting socially in the local community.
Nick Gill - Exeter
“I co-ordinate asylum-network, an affiliation of researchers and academics working on issues related to seeking asylum, border control and the challenges facing migrants. I have had extensive experience of designing research in partnership with asylum seeking and refugee communities, collecting evidence for research with asylum seeking and refugee communities and disseminating to these communities and beyond. Presently I am leading a major three year project that examines the practices of judges, home office presenting officers and court staff involved in conducting first tier immigration asylum appeals across the UK.
“As an academic I have access to a rich set of networks and contacts, from former research participants, to numerous target audiences, other academics and students – both undergraduate and postgraduate. Student populations in particular are well placed to lend support in all sorts of ways. Since Asylum-Network joined the Detention Forum in early 2014 for instance, my PhD students have been involved as twitter officers and in many other ways. I see the student body of the United Kingdom as a valuable resource for the Sanctuary movement and would hope to explore that resource as a trustee.
“In 2013 the Exeter City of Sanctuary group was set up, led by students from the University of Exeter. Over two short years we have held a range of awareness raising events, undertaken training and fundraising, reached out to detainees in nearby Weymouth (at the new Verne detention) centre, petitioned for Exeter to become a dispersal area (we hope successfully), and taken steps towards making the University of Exeter the first University of Sanctuary.
“Becoming a trustee of City of Sanctuary nationally would mean that lots of exciting opportunities would open up for activities such as accessing funding streams, working together to evidence certain aspects of the asylum and refugee experience in the UK, disseminating to key target audiences including nationally such as in Parliament and supporting sanctuary seekers and groups that support them. I have experience in managing teams, public speaking, research, advocacy, teaching and event organising and am excited about working as a trustee in the coming years.”
Pam Inder - Leicester
“I have been involved with Leicester City of Sanctuary since 2008. I joined the Management Committee in 2009 and was Chair from 2010 to 2013. In that time we set up a drop-in centre (which has succeeded beyond our wildest expectations), the NEST (New Evidence Search Team) which has attracted a good deal of attention nationally, and various other projects. In 2014 I again became Chair (the name of the role changed to ‘Coordinator’ in October) but plan to stand down finally at the AGM on May 9th because I feel it is unhealthy for one person to lead an organisation for too long. I can, however, claim to have learnt a good deal about the asylum system, managing volunteers and City of Sanctuary as a whole over the last six and a half years.
“In my working life I was a museum curator in Local Authority museums – essentially a mid-level manager – and later a university lecturer and researcher. I therefore have management skills and am an experienced speaker and communicator. I am also a writer and editor – my tenth book (popular social history) goes to press later this year.
“I believe very strongly in the need to change the asylum system and to support those people unfortunate enough to have to go through it. I feel City of Sanctuary is increasingly well placed to do this and I would very much like the opportunity to be part of this development.”
Philip Berman - Dublin
Over the last six years, Philip has been increasingly involved in refugee and asylum -seekers’ issues. He was recruited by the Immigrant Council of Ireland in 2010 as a mentor for a Pakistani refugee. Since their family arrived in Ireland, he has continued to be involved with them, seeing their extraordinary successes established themselves in Dublin.
Subsequently, Philip became a member of the Board of the Immigrant Council of Ireland and represented the Irish Red Cross on two European Red Cross committees, one focusing on migration issues and the other more specifically on Restoring Family Links. He is also a member of the Irish Red Cross International Advisory Board.
When the City of Sanctuary movement began to grow in Ireland, Philip was invited to become Chair of what, in Ireland, is called Places of Sanctuary Ireland (PoSI).
Through his involvement with the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the Irish Red Cross, Philip is very aware of the the centralised efforts to deliver services *for* refugees, and that integration activities engaging refugees – working *with* refugees – are few and far between. He believes that PoSI has a crucial role to play in encouraging and facilitating local communities to develop a wide range of activities, appropriate to their own environments, to welcome refugees.
Rodrigo Edema - Sheffield
“Rodrigo is the Project Coordinator of City of Sanctuary Sheffield (COSS) and works in partnership with agencies across the Yorkshire and Humberside region. His role involves supporting, registration, liaising with medical Clinics, introductory briefing sessions to services and how to access them and signposting to other agencies.
“As a refugee, I have a long history of involvement with and working with refugees and asylum seekers both in Africa and in the UK. As a field coordinator with Sudan Human Right Association, I coordinated and implemented capacity building programmes and personnel training workshops for Sudanese refugees’ communities around the great lake region of Africa especially in DR Congo, Southern Sudan, Northern Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia.”
“I hold a Bachelor of Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management and also the Chartered Institute of Housing UK qualification. I am a trustee of (ASSIST) and Sheffield Health International Partnership (SHIP). I feel honoured to be co-opted as City of Sanctuary national trustee. I bring genuine qualities that arise from my personal experience as a refugee.”
Roger Nyantou - Leeds
Through his various roles Roger has developed a passion for bringing people and groups together, as he believes the refugee sector could be much stronger and more effective through stronger and more open partnerships.
Roger is currently working as a manager with Northern Refugee Centre – RETAS Leeds. Since arriving here in the UK, he has worked in the public, private and voluntary sector running projects related to aspects of refugee integration.
He is a trustee for the national City of Sanctuary charity as well as being actively involved in the Leeds group and through his work and volunteering activities has developed a growing desire to see the huge potential of refugees and other migrants realised and recognised.
Sabir Zazai (Chair) - Coventry
Sabir, a former refugee from Afghanistan, is 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.