Why Support Liverpool City of Sanctuary? Here we have the rationale for supporting this movement, by some of the actors already involved…
Jillian Summers, Liverpool City Council
The Liverpool community, as a port city, is accustomed to newcomers and well known for its hospitality and friendliness. Over the years Liverpool has been a settlement place for many diverse communities that bring with them their culture and traditions making the city vibrant and exciting.
For some of the new arrivals Liverpool is a refuge, escaping from where their lives were threatened and we hope they find here the safety and support.
The organisations set up to support Asylum Seekers and Refugees are well developed to provide that specific service but we need to look further to the host community to make people feel part of their neighbourhoods. We have to make sure the local community understands the situation of Asylum Seekers and Refugees without prejudice of stereotypes and why there is a need to provide sanctuary to those vulnerable newcomers.
As Liverpool City Council we are committed to the vision of Liverpool being a Global City where communities are thriving. We will support efforts to make Liverpool a City of Sanctuary, a welcoming city for asylum seekers and refugees with a greater level of inclusion. We will encourage the community and voluntary sector to involve the newcomers in their activities to help them feel at home where they know people around them, feel accepted and have opportunity to contribute as well to the local community.
Ewan Roberts, Asylum Link Merseyside (Link to Website)
For people to live together in a safe and sustainable community, all members of that community must have a basic appreciation and understanding of the people with whom they share their lives. This includes new arrivals, visitors, migrant workers and students as well as people who’s families have lived here for generations.
Asylum Seekers and Refugees, who may have experienced multiple traumas, cultural and geographical dislocation, language barriers and a wide range of other disadvantages, need the support and understanding of the host community, as they begin to make sense of their lives in their new surroundings.
The host community need to feel safe and confident that the arrival of newcomers in their neighbourhood, will not somehow sweep away their former values and way of life.
People have to learn to appreciate one another.
Asylum Link’s participation in the City of Sanctuary programme is based on expanding the safe and secure place for Refugees from within the walls of the St Anne’s centre, out into the wider community, allowing Asylum Seekers to engage with their community and enabling the host community to understand why Asylum Seekers have appeared amongst them and be in a position to help where they chose to do so.
Dr. Alex Balch, University of Liverpool
My research and teaching is on the politics of immigration and asylum and all aspects of how the state deals with these issues. In 2013, most people are aware that the national political debate over the subject of immigration in the UK has become increasingly toxic. Ministerial committees have been set up to make the country more ‘hostile’ to migrants and reduce access to public services, ‘go-home’ vans are driving round parts of London to encourage the undocumented to leave (or face arrest). Perhaps less people know that these kinds of aggressive tactics have been targeting asylum seekers for decades, leading to widespread harm to individuals and families and problems of destitution.
For those of us who care it is important not to just sit and watch developments unfold with a sense of horror. That is why there are so many at the University of Liverpool who are actively working on research and teaching which relates directly to these areas. The University offers a unique space to build expertise and knowledge about immigration and asylum at the local, national and international levels; it also provides a place for staff, students and others to discuss these subjects and create networks with other individuals and organizations. That is why I am happy to support the City of Sanctuary movement because I believe it is important to join in sending out a message of welcome and hospitality that challenges the discourse of fear and intolerance towards newcomers.
Declaring Liverpool as a City of Sanctuary not only makes links with a network of other towns and cities across the UK, it continues a venerable tradition of acceptance and openness towards others based on the common values of hospitality. It is often at the local level where individuals and communities pick up the pieces of a national politics that can become broken; it is local people and organizations that give hope to those in need, and make space to welcome immigrants and asylum-seekers. Liverpool is a generous city with a global reach but is a place that is no stranger to tough times. In my view it is entirely in keeping with its past and its present for it to aspire to be a City of Sanctuary.
Mohammed Taher, Community Development Worker
I left my country Iran when I was 17 years old. First I went to live in Athens without my family and without knowing anyone there. I lived in many other cities and countries before coming to Liverpool, and I know from my own experience that the feeling of loneliness and isolation when you go to a city where you know no one is one of the most difficult issues to deal with.
I know from my own experience that the housing, health and employment problems for any stranger in the city are the main concerns and I also know that having a friendly person from that city to help you or advise you, would support or encourage you in solving those problems.
Liverpool has had a reputation for its hospitality and warmth. It has the oldest china town in Europe; it is the first city in UK where communities such as Irish, Somalis, Yemenis and West African settled. This has made Liverpool a diverse city for all faith groups and races. Liverpool’s diversity has made Liverpool a city of culture and famous for its music, its humour and its friendly people.
I Support Liverpool for City of Sanctuary because I want Liverpool to take pride in offering a welcome to people in need of safety, and help refugees and asylum-seekers to contribute fully to the life of our communities. This is something that Liverpool had been doing for many centuries.
Sahir House (Link to Website)
At Sahir House we welcome the City of Sanctuary movement as a chance for asylum seekers and refugees to receive the empathy and understanding they deserve. By encouraging our community to welcome and include this group in every respect, we are working towards a humanitarian ideology which is at the heart of the principal of social justice.
Asylum seekers and refugees are severely disadvantaged in society, and must contend with the culture of disbelief that pervades the Home Office system. By offering a place of safety to the most vulnerable, we are actively resisting against this oppressive and discriminatory regime.
We also feel that the City of Sanctuary movement will strengthen the multi-cultural heritage of Liverpool. By celebrating the diversity and unique qualities of refugees and asylum seekers, we will be able to dispel the portrayal of them as a homogenous group.
Dr Joseph O’Neill, Chair, Dialog Project
1 in 3 refugees cared for by the UN is a Palestinian. UK is 5th richest country in world, and owes a debt to it’s colonies. Sanctuary seekers make up a tiny proportion of immigrant population, and are victims of massive institutional racism – 3/4 are refused asylum, all are not allowed to work, and denied basic english classes….Is this hospitality?
Liverpool Student Action for Refugees (Link to Website)
As students, many of us have come to Liverpool as outsiders, to contribute to the city as well as earn an education and good life for ourselves. The hospitality and welcome this city provides for any student coming to Liverpool from the outside, means that many of us choose to make this our city beyond education, and stay for as long as we can. Working with asylum seekers and refugees in Liverpool gives our student volunteers the opportunity to be involved with the wider local community through a variety of projects and organisations, as well as the opportunity to meet and work with courageous people from a variety of different cultures, nations, stories and experiences.
Students coming into the city do not face exclusion, poverty, detention, or destitution, as many of our friends seeking sanctuary do. We are grateful of the welcome we as students have experienced from this city and its people, and are proud to be part of a movement that seeks to extend this welcome to a far smaller and more deserving minority.
Julie Corkill, Nugent Care
Liverpool is increasingly a diverse and culturally rich city just by committing to sanctuary for those who need it most!