Jack Brooke-Battersby
By Jack Brooke-Battersby

Senior Staff Writer

17 June 2021

| | 4 min read


Newcastle’s libraries recognised for support given to people seeking asylum

Newcastle’s libraries and community hubs have been recognised with a prestigious award in recognition of the support they give to people seeking asylum to help them settle in the city.

Cllrs Irim Ali and Joyce McCarty with Lord Mayor Cllr Habib Rahman with the Library of Sanctuary award
Cllrs Irim Ali and Joyce McCarty with Lord Mayor Cllr Habib Rahman with the Library of Sanctuary award

Newcastle Libraries has been named a Library of Sanctuary in response to the work it does to help recently-arrived refugees integrate into the community, becoming the first public libraries services in the North East to receive the title.

The city’s libraries and community hubs offer migrants free internet, information, access to local and national government services and signpost to other helpful agencies whilst promoting local support organisations and opportunities to join in their activities.

Cllr Joyce McCarty, Newcastle City Council cabinet member for Inclusive Economy, said: “For many years Newcastle has been recognised as a City of Sanctuary, proudly providing support and opportunities for people fleeing wars, persecution and other horrors across the world.

“We’re proud to be able to offer a safe place for people to start a new life, and a welcoming community that embraces them and helps people settle into their new homes.

“The work of Newcastle Libraries is essential to achieving this as it helps families integrate into the city, find services that can support them and makes them feel welcome in our great city. To be recognised as a Library of Sanctuary is an incredible achievement and it further highlights our city’s commitment to helping people rebuild their lives.”

Cllr Irim Ali, Newcastle City Council cabinet member for Community Services and Public Engagement, accepted the award on behalf of Newcastle Libraries at a small ceremony on Thursday June 17.

She said: “It is almost impossible for many of us to imagine the difficulty people go through when it comes to starting a new life in a different country, leaving behind their homes in the most devastating of circumstances.

“That asylum seekers know Newcastle Libraries offer a safe space and the support required to settle into their new surroundings in Newcastle is a source of tremendous pride and it is an honour to accept this award during national Refugee Week.

“The efforts of our officers help to bring communities and cultures together in our city, they make people feel welcome and included and highlight the difficulties people go through.”

Mai Yousif arrived in Newcastle from the Sudan in 2019 with her teenage son Mohammed and once she found out about the City Library she used to travel there once a week.

She said: “I had a shock and was worried about leaving my home in Sudan but coming to the library I think it changed my life.

“They told me about schools, about housing, and I could talk to someone who can help me. I found support in the library. In my country you just go and read books at the library, then leave. But here the library does so much and does a lot of things to help refugees. I really love the library here and I’m now going to be a volunteer there!”

Siân Summers-Rees, Chief Officer at City of Sanctuary UK, said: "We are delighted that Newcastle Libraries have been awarded as the first public Library of Sanctuary in the North East.

“We are impressed by their longstanding commitment to reducing barriers for people with lived experience of seeking sanctuary and ensuring their welcome and inclusion. They were the first library to offer Sanctuary book collections telling the stories of displaced people and have provided us with inspirational case studies, which we have been able to share with public libraries across the UK to inform the growing network of libraries committed to our vision for a welcoming UK.”

Find out more about Libraries of Sanctuary at https://libraries.cityofsanctuary.org/