YORK could launch a bid to join a network of UK cities which pride themselves on providing a warm welcome for refugees and asylum-seekers.
City of York Council’s cabinet is to decide whether to support pursuing City of Sanctuary status, which would see York join a movement designed to create “a culture of hospitality” and places of safety for people fleeing persecution.
Local groups have been set up in 17 towns, cities and boroughs across the country, while Sheffield, Swansea and Bristol have become official Cities of Sanctuary since the movement began in 2005. The cabinet will be asked to back York seeking official recognition next week, with the council pointing to the city’s long history of providing help to those in need.
Coun Sonja Crisp, the council’s cabinet member for leisure, culture and social inclusion, said: “We want York to become a City of Sanctuary, where local people and community groups work together to make our city a place of welcome, safety and security for all those who need to claim sanctuary. Many who make the journey to the UK to escape danger or threats to their lives feel isolated and fearful on their arrival, so this movement is about offering a helping hand. We want to spread the culture of hospitality throughout the whole of the city, so welcome and support can more easily be found by those who need them the most.”
If City of Sanctuary status is granted, the council said it would work “from the ground upwards” and require the support of individual residents as well as community groups, schools, universities, sports clubs, voluntary organisations and other bodies. It said many organisations had already expressed support.
York’s history as a welcoming city includes the role of the York Refugee Committee in finding work, housing and school places for Jewish families fleeing the Holocaust, providing a refuge for Asian families expelled from Uganda and Kenya in the 1970s and 1980s, and housing Balkan refugees in the early 1990s. The council said many of those helped in the past now played “a significant part” in York’s business and commercial circles.
The authority hopes to have official City of Sanctuary status by the end of 2012.