What is Leicester City of Sanctuary?

City of Sanctuary is a national movement with nearly 40 groups which are committed to developing a ‘culture of welcome and inclusion’ for people seeking sanctuary in the UK. The aim is to create a network of places throughout the country which do their best to include asylum seekers and refugees in the lives of their communities. City of Sanctuary was founded in Sheffield in 2005 and the Leicester branch (registered charity no 1138017) was established two years later.

Here in Leicester, we are now a small charity run entirely by volunteers with a range of projects supporting asylum seekers in a variety of ways. We also hold awareness raising talks to explain to people about what it is like to be an asylum seeker and about the asylum process. We provide this for free to any community group or organisation including statutory services. You can find out more by reading our annual report, clicking the boxes on the right hand side of this page or contact us for further information.

  • Leicester City of Sanctuary held a successful evening of jazz poetry and song to raise funds for the hardship fund last Wednesday on 3 September. It was an inspirational mixture of instrumental music, poetry and song that demonstrates the diverse talents of artists in Leicester, a package with no shortage of introspection, improvisation and inspiration! The event was generously hosted by Leicester Jazz House at the University Embrace Arts Centre and raised over £500. We were treated to the rhythmic saxophone riffs of The Free Loaders and also the soulful jazz and haunting voice of Mellow Baku supported by her band with Marcus Joseph. The excellent radical poet, Jess Green shared her experiences of working in a school through the spoken word and her “Dear Mr Gove“ was particularly appreciated. But the highlight of the event was the Zimbabwean choir made up of local refugees and asylum seekers who had half the audience up and dancing by the end. Mary Sadombe wrote a poem especially for the occasion about her experience as a refugee and followed it up with a another brilliant poem called Citizenship which referred to our rights and responsibilities and the stewardship of the earth. Both were powerful testimonies. Radio Leicester attended the event and gave us great coverage during the Dulcie Dixon show on Sunday evening. They were so impressed with Mary’s poetry that they also invited her to an interview with Radio Leicester and gave her the opportunity to read more of her poems. We in City of Sanctuary are delighted that our fundraising gig has led to the local radio discovering a poet, and providing her with coverage and promoting African poetry through one of their shows.
  • Wednesday, 3 September 2014 - 8:00pm - 10:30pm
    at Embrace Arts, The Richard Attenborough Centre, Leicester University. This concert brings together an inspirational mixture of instrumental music, poetry and song that demonstrates the diverse talents of artists in Leicester, a package with no shortage of introspection, improvisation and inspiration! The programme will feature jazz from the Free Rangers, poetry from Jess Green, Zimbabwean poet Mary Taurayi Sadomba and song from the Zimbabwean choir and the soulful jazz of the Marcus Joseph/Mellow Baku band. Tickets £10 available from Embrace Arts Address: 35 Lancaster Rd, Leicester LE1 7HA Phone:0116 252 2455 Box Office Hours: Open today · 9:15 am – 6:00 pm You also have the choice to buy a ticket for an asylum seeker to attend and enjoy the evening entertainment. Please buy and leave your spare ticket with the box office, so that we know how many asylum seekers to invite. All proceeds to Leicester City of Sanctuary Destitution Fund. With grateful thanks to Leicester Jazz House for organising and hosting this fundraiser for us.
  • Friday, 30 May 2014 - 10:30am - 3:30pm
    Run by Right to Remain (formerly the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns). Hosted by Leicester charity After18, supported by Leicester City of Sanctuary Friday 30 May 2014 10:30am – 3:30pm at St Martin’s House, Cathedral Square, Leicester This introductory training session on campaigning for the right to remain includes interactive exercises, discussion, knowledge-sharing and case-studies. Participants will learn about: * the asylum and immigration system. the problems people face going through the system – and how to overcome them. supporting people in their struggle for asylum or immigration status. what ‘campaigning’ means, the difference between public and non-public campaigning, and how to campaign effectively for the right to remain. how activists and local groups can work together to support people in their communities who are seeking the right to remain.
  • Monday, 19 May 2014 - 1:00pm - 5:00pm
    All welcome to join us for our AGM and Volunteer Conference. Friends Meeting House, 16 Queens Road, Leicester,LE2 1WP Update on all our projects Training on confidentiality and boundaries for all volunteers Consultation on new Volunteer policy and volunteer training and support needs Refreshments and stalls from local voluntary groups that support asylum seekers Click here for the Annual Report and a new proposal for governance and management
  • Leicester became the tenth city and the first in the Midlands to pass the Still Human Still Here resolution opposing policy that results in the destitution of asylum seekers at various points in the asylum process. The motion was agreed by the majority Labour Group in advance of the full council meeting, after City of Sanctuary Supporters across Leicester asked their local councillors to consider supporting it. Two asylum seekers known to Leicester CoS were made destitute the day before the motion was passed. The pledge included questioning government policy , engaging local MPs in lobbying of central government to empower local authorities to provide support, called for the right to work within 6 months of claiming asylum and support for the Still Human still Here campaign. Cllr Adam Clarke, who proposed the motion, said: “I want to raise the profile of this important, yet often hidden, social issue. “In Leicester, the Red Cross helped 325 destitute asylum seekers in the last six months of 2013. Obviously, this is of great concern to us and I would like Leicester to join local authorities in cities like Liverpool, Bristol and Leeds in signing up to this pledge.” He told City of Sanctuary supporters before the motion: “Thanks to you for the time and effort you have gone to in educating us about the issues and about your incredibly admirable work. I sincerely hope we can do justice to you, City of Sanctuary, Still Human Still Here and particularly those experiencing destitution in the city on Thursday evening – and after Thursday.” Cllr Manjula Sood, assistant city mayor responsible for community involvement, partnerships and equalities seconded the motion. She said: “Leicester has always had a reputation as a welcoming city, where people from many different backgrounds live side by side.
  • 67 people turned out for the first Public Meeting organised by City of Sanctuary in Loughborough on Wednesday 15th January. The vast majority were keen to set up a new Town of Sanctuary group to welcome the hundreds of asylum seekers who visit regularly from Nottingham, Derby and Leicester to sign on at the East Midlands Reporting Centre. Thank you to John Storer House, who provided a free venue for the meeting, and others, including the Loughborough Echo who helped publicise the meeting. Andrew Lake spoke about the Dreamers project, supporting unaccompanied asylum seekers who are cared for in Loughborough. This project has worked in partnership with Charnwood Arts, who have helped to produce two excellent publications; Hidden Voices and Voices Beyond Borders. A young Syrian asylum seeker shared his hopes and dreams. People came from the Loughborough Council of Faiths, local churches, the county and local council, the BACA charity and housing project the Human Rights and Equalities Centre, Loughborough University and local schools. Another meeting is to be organised to take the momentum forward. Ideas already proposed include the free refreshments project in partnership with John Storer House and a local community café, Schools of Sanctuary and even a Drop-in for those who travel to sign on at the Reporting Centre. Look out for a new page on the website!
  • Leicester City of Sanctuary are proud of the local press The Leicester Mercury. They have followed the campaign to stop the deportation of grandmother Evenia Mawongera all the way as she suffers in detention in Yarl’s Wood – now her 35th day. Yesterday they told the story of Evenia’s granddaughter (just 6 years old) who wrote to David Cameron asking if she could have her grandma aback. Today they published this editorial Mercury Opinion: Stop the deportation of Evenia. If you haven’t signed the online petition Evenia must stay you can find it here.
  • Leicester City of Sanctuary were pleased to be asked by Radio Leicester to comment during the Breakfast show on the Home Office Affairs Committee Report on Asylum published today. The Committee was chaired by Keith Vaz MP for Leicester East. Whilst we welcomed the report, which highlights the plight of sanctuary seekers and a system under strain, including the delays in and poor quality of decision making, the outstanding 32,600 legacy cases and substandard housing we don’t think the recommendations went far enough. We were pleased to see at least 4 of the 16 recommendations we made in our submission to the committee in March. These were • Providing on going asylum support to new refugees until mainstream benefits kick in thus reducing destitution at the point of gaining leave to remain. • Providing support and child care to women with children under 5 to attend interviews • Improving interpreting facilities • Improved country of origin information The interview with Pam Inder and Colleen Molloy can be heard here from one hour 17 minutes into the programme and again with Keith Vaz from 2 hours and 26 minutes in. We would have liked more time to suggest that real action needs to be taken to address the issues highlighted, including investment in resources and people and a change in institutional culture. We also need a conscious attempt at positive media stories celebrating refugees’ contributions and to make people aware of the realities of the asylum system and to enable the public to see the person behind the statistics. The full report can be found here.
  • Refugee Artist Ali Agayev invited city Mayor Peter Soulsby to the City of Sanctuary Drop-in session to present his portrait to him as a thank you for helping to create a welcoming atmosphere in Leicester and all his support for asylum seekers.
  • Leicester City of Sanctuary Drop-in sewing group produced these colourful patchwork cushions. These were commissioned by the British Red Cross after the successful quilting project (9 beautiful quilts were made and exhibited earlier this year).
  • Volunteers who run the Drop-in centre were delighted when The Clothworkers’ Foundation agreed a £10,000 grant for new equipment for the Drop-in and other activities.
  • A volunteer wrote this poem after accompanying an asylum seeker to the UKBA East Midlands Reporting Centre. We think it says so much we wanted to share it with you. Blue Folder By Lily Silverman – City of Sanctuary Volunteer What’s your favourite colour?
  • The ongoing Leicester campaign to prevent the deportation of Evenia Mawongera to Zimbabwe has continued since she was released from detention on 16th July. Evenia (55) has been living in Leicester with her daughters and grandchildren, all of whom are British citizens, for close to 10 years. She is a Leicester City of Sanctuary drop-in user and is one of our quilt makers. The Home Office wants to remove her to Zimbabwe where she is at risk of arrest, persecution and extremely serious ill-treatment. Campaigners from Civic Leicester and the Zimbabwe Association have tirelessly collected signatures from passers by in the Town Hall square (now over 3,000) where there is an “Evenia must stay” tree and have accompanied her to the East Midlands Reporting Centre each week. The local newspaper, Leicester Mercury have reported weekly and Radio Leicester and BBC East Midlands has also covered the story. Evenia and her family have received support from across Leicester and Evenia has been nominated for the Leicester Mercury and East Midlands Housing Group Good Neighbour Awards 2013. To stay up to date with this campaign see the Facebook page . We are proud of Leicester’s support, wish Evenia and her campaigners well and hope that the Home Office will do the right thing and not send Evenia back to inevitable suffering. Supporters can also sign the on-line petition to the Home Office here.
  • Joel, Zodwe and Abdul, regular attenders at Leicester City of Sanctuary Drop in, enjoyed the get-together for environmental activism last weekend in the beautiful country side at Hartington, Derbyshire. We were delighted that Friends of the Earth offered us 3 free places for asylum seekers and refugees and all three returned with new enthusiasm for the environment, refreshed by a break from the city and meeting new friends and keen to join the Friends of the Earth local group. Joel who works an allotment for asylum seekers told us “It was beautiful.
  • We had a successful week of celebrations this Refugee week including an open drop in, an interactive event, a public talk at the Secular Hall,two radio interviews and a news article about one of our clients who was granted refugee status last month. We also participated in the British Red Cross event with stalls, singing, music, dancing and drumming at the town hall square.
  • Thanks to Ambrose Musiyiwa for this short film to promote us during Refugee Week in Leicester.
  • Leicester City of Sanctuary plan an open day at our drop in centre and a lively public event to raise awareness about the asylum process on 20th June. We also have an exhibition all week at the Central Library. Contact us to book your place.
  • Leicester City of Sanctuary Drop in users and friends of Abdul were delighted when he was released last week after nearly 3 weeks in detention. His release is pending a review of his case. Abdul expressed gratitude to everyone who supported him whilst in detention. He had been overwhelmed with letters and cards of support from Leicester and around the world. Over 3,000 people signed the petition and letters were sent to the Home Office and Immigration Ministers. See the Local press report here
  • Leicester City of Sanctuary held a fair at Friends Meeting House on 25th May and raised £1,450. Singing from the Zimbabwean and Red Leicester Choirs, excellent curry and rice, scrumptious cakes, crafts, books, plants and bric-a-brac made for a day full of bargains and fun. BIG thanks to all.
  • Leicester City of Sanctuary is supporting a campaign to release Abdul, a young man we have been working with who is gentle and kind and absolutely should not be being detained at a deportation and removal centre awaiting removal to Afghanistan. We spoke with Abdul this morning and he is very scared. Please support us by sharing the following link with all your friends. Sign the petition to save Abdul. https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/release-abdul-ghafar-rajabali-and-halt-his-deportation More information here
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