City of Sanctuary
City of Sanctuary
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, we take great pride in the fact that so many refugees chose to settle here once their claim for asylum has been determined.
As a city we are committed to doing what we can to welcome those seeking sanctuary and to help rebuild lives. We are honoured to be a recognised City of Sanctuary; part of a network of towns and cities throughout the country that are proud to be places of safety, and which include people seeking sanctuary fully in the lives of their communities.
What is a City of Sanctuary?
Our aim is to get individuals, organisations and institutions in the city to join us in enacting the principles of the Cities of Sanctuary movement. These are to:
- Offer a positive vision of a culture of welcome and hospitality to all
- Create opportunities for relationships of friendship and solidarity between local people and those seeking sanctuary
- Recognise and encourage partnership working and network development across localities
- Identify opportunities for practical action and work on common cause issues to effect change within and across communities (turning empathy into action)
- Celebrate and promote the welcome contribution of people seeking sanctuary
- Engage people seeking sanctuary in decision making processes at all levels and in all activities promote understanding of asylum and refugee issues, especially by enabling refugee voices to be heard directly
Working together to meet our shared aspirations to be a City of Sanctuary
Newcastle is proud to be part of a number of schemes that bring refugees 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 we 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.
- We 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 our ongoing and well-established City of Sanctuary network and will align this work with our existing refugee resettlement programmes.
- UASC: we 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. We 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 our City of Sanctuary approach we 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. Some examples include:
May – August 2019 – LAASLO/Move On Pilot: Working with the Home Office, DWP, Mears and Migrant Help to look at how the learning from the LAASLO project can shape future move on arrangements
March 2017 – Cabinet: Approved a policy ‘Setting a Standard for Asylum Seeker Accommodation’ which including a ban on forced bedroom sharing recommendations for residents affected by the benefit cap
November 2015 – Council: passed Destitution Motion
June 2013 – Council: passed City of Sanctuary Motion
Campaigning for change
We recognise that we are limited by law and national policy in our ability to provide support to refugees, asylum seekers and refugees - we campaign for change alongside other councils, national charities and our local partners. Some examples include:
May 2019 – Minister of State for Immigration: the Deputy Leader wrote to the Minister calling for urgent action to support and extend the current refugee move on period which all too often leave newly recognised refugees homeless and destitute
April 2019 – Leader of the Council: open letter to Faith Leaders condemning the far right demonstrations being held in the city.
January 2019 – Council: passed Motion calling for right to work for asylum seekers supporting the ‘Lift the Ban’ campaign
November 2018 – Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry on asylum accommodation: provided written evidence highlighting concerns over accommodation standards and calling for the 28 day ‘refugee move on period’ to be extended.
October 2018 – Westminster Hall Debate: contributed to the debate on Asylum Accommodation Contracts
July 2018 – Minister of State for Immigration: the Deputy Leader met with the Immigration Minister to voice concerns over accommodation standards, lack of ‘end to end’ asylum process and lack of local authority engagement