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.

  • Thanks to volunteer Shali Bullough, Leicester City of Sanctuary has just been awarded £9,040 from the Lottery Fund for a welcoming project called Open Door. We hope that this project will run alongside our current Hello Leicester project. The project is about developing a peer-to-peer befriending service for newly-dispersed asylum seekers attending our drop-in service over the first three weeks. The aim of the project is to train existing members (asylum seekers) who have previously benefited from our services and to enhance their skills. These members would then use their own experience to mentor new arrivals. Many of our members have been in Leicester for several years, speak more than 70 languages between them & understand and empathise with the challenges faced by new arrivals. These members will be invited to form a welcoming committee for new arrivals and will be provided with the necessary training to act as ‘buddies’. Open Door will assign each new arrival with a designated ‘buddy’ who will meet with them over a 3 week period. The buddy will make the new user feel more at home and help them access the wide range of services available offered by ourselves and partner organisations in order to make the new user more integrated and independent. The project will also involve providing our clients on the Open Door welcoming committee with the variety of skills and resources that they will need to run the project. The training will be run by a team of volunteers and will cover communication skills, boundaries, confidentiality, IT skills, administration, time management and record keeping. Once the new arrivals have been integrated into the drop-in, we aim to move them onto the Hello Leicester project so that they can be more widely orientated to the city and more fully integrated into the local community. Hello Leicester includes raising awareness in community groups (e.g.
  • The Leicester City of Sanctuary drop-in centre is a hive of activity and friendship. It opened in May 2011 with six people seeking asylum and ten volunteers. Two weeks ago, a hundred and twenty-four people attended! This is in part due to the increase in people seeking asylum who are being dispersed to Leicester – from 500+ in October 2013 to 960 this month. Members of the drop-in describe it as a lifeline, and many new friendships have been forged within its buzzing atmosphere. Destitute asylum seekers value the hot lunch and personal support and new members are helped to connect with services. Earlier this year St Martin’s House realised that we had outgrown our original premises in the Booth Hall and generously allowed us the use of the Grand Hall on Thursday afternoons. They have also taken over our catering contract and user-feedback tells us the lunches have improved significantly! We now serve lunch and run social activities in the Grand Hall. The popular sewing group and computer users continue to meet in the Booth Hall. We are also running a ‘Help Desk’ service there – dealing with all sorts of problems like delayed benefits, housing issues, school applications and referrals to other agencies. There are some teething problems in running the two rooms in tandem because they are in different parts of the building – but we are gradually ironing these out. A recent user survey showed that our members are overwhelmingly positive about the drop-in centre and many of them would like us to run it more than once a week! As it currently costs +/-£400 a week this is not possible – but we are hoping to find another organisation in the city willing to run a similar project on a different day. Offers from organisations in the city centre, or in the Narborough Road area, would be particularly welcome. Please contact us on leicester@cityofsanctuary.org if you feel you could help.
  • At a Special General Meeting on October 2nd 2014, Leicester City of Sanctuary approved a new Board of Trustees. At the AGM in May it had been agreed that there was too much of an overlap between the Board of Trustees and the Steering Group, and the existing trustees were tasked with finding people to form a new board. Read more…
  • 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! Read More
  • Wednesday, 3 September 2014 (All day)
    On 3rd September 2014 we hosted a Jazz, Poetry and Song Fundraiser at Embrace Arts, The Richard Attenborough Centre, Leicester University. Read more…
  • 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. Read more…
  • 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. Read more…
  • 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. Read more …
  • 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.
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