Sanctuary Awards and Becoming a Recognized City of Sanctuary


City of Sanctuary is based on the vision of a network of towns and cities permeated by a culture of hospitality, where people seeking sanctuary from violence and persecution in their own countries can find welcome, support, and understanding, be included in local activities and have their contribution to the community recognised and celebrated.

The City of Sanctuary process involves independent local groups working towards this vision in different ways depending on local circumstances. In some cases an important step in the process has been to achieve ‘recognition’ as a City (or Town) of Sanctuary by setting out and achieving certain criteria. These criteria demonstrate commitment to living and spreading the values underlying the above vision, and also significant practical actions which are likely to increase welcome, support and understanding for sanctuary seekers and refugees. We now intend to broaden this in two ways:
• by introducing ‘sanctuary awards’ which can be made to a variety of organizations and groups as well as to places such as towns or cities;
• by making it clear that ‘recognition’ is only part of the process of working towards our vision; we also need strategies for making real positive changes to the lives of sanctuary seekers and refugees, and to consider effectiveness and impact and review progress on a regular basis.

There is no agreed formula for developing a successful and effective City of Sanctuary local group. Local circumstances vary and solutions which work in one area may not be appropriate or feasible in another. Numbers of asylum seekers and refugees vary hugely from one location to another. While progress on developing a culture of welcome can only be achieved by City of Sanctuary working with and through local groups and organisations, each local area is faced with a different mix and has to adapt accordingly.

In general terms local groups should work towards the following:

1. Resolutions of support from a significant and representative proportion of local groups and organisations. These should include a commitment to welcoming and including people seeking sanctuary in the activities of the group, and to making practical efforts to build relationships between those seeking sanctuary and local people.

2. Encouraging supporting organisations ( whether formally pledged or not ) to turn their commitment into actions that will make a difference.

3. The support and involvement of local refugee communities, and participation by people seeking sanctuary and refugees in the local City of Sanctuary group, including representation on its steering group or committee.

4. Sustained engagement with the local authority or authorities (which may include but should go beyond a resolution of support).

5. A strategy, agreed by the main supporting organisations, for how the city or town is to continue working towards greater inclusion of people seeking sanctuary and refugees, as well as greater public awareness and support for them, through a range of initiatives from the following list ( or similar ):

• Workshops or talks for schools on sanctuary issues
• Engagement with further and higher education
• Other awareness raising events or activities
• Drop-in sessions for people seeking sanctuary
• Social and cultural events where people seeking sanctuary and local people interact
• Musical and drama activities which include refugees
• Opportunities for English tuition
• Interfaith events promoting sanctuary and hospitality
• Community conflict resolution services for areas experiencing tension over new arrivals
• Work with local media to publicise positive stories about sanctuary seekers
• Positive programmes for new arrivals
• Refugee community involvement in festivals and cultural events
• Programme of events and activities for Refugee Week
• Programmes for employment training and voluntary work.
• Contributing towards building local networks amongst groups and agencies representing and working with sanctuary seekers.

6. A commitment to self-evaluation through a regular review process which seeks as far as possible the views and suggestions of people seeking sanctuary and refugees.

Any new group which wishes to operate under the title City of Sanctuary needs to show that it is working towards these action points and is committed to activities similar to those in the list above, possibly through or in conjunction with other local groups and organisations.

We are now introducing the Sanctuary Award, which will be one way for groups to measure and celebrate achievement and impact.

This is an award given by the City of Sanctuary movement to an organisation or place which demonstrates that it is committed to living and spreading the core sanctuary values and that it has consistently put these values into practice in significant and measurable ways.

The core values can be summarized as follows:
1. Learn about what it means to be seeking sanctuary; and be actively involved in awareness raising.
2. Embed – take positive action to make welcome and inclusion part of the values of your organisation or community, to support sanctuary seekers and refugees, and to include them in your activities.
3. Share your vision and achievements; let others know about the positive contribution refugees make to our society and the benefits of a welcoming culture to everyone.
This award can be made to:
• cities
• towns
• organisations
• businesses
• community groups
• places of worship and faith-based groups
• schools
• health service providers
• sports facilities
• theatres and concert halls
• art galleries and libraries
An award to an organisation may be made by application or by nomination. In the case of an award to a place, the local City of Sanctuary group may apply on its behalf. A Sanctuary Award to a place is equivalent to ‘recognition’ of that place as a City of Sanctuary (or Town of Sanctuary etc.)

Proposed Process
An organisation or place wanting to be considered for the award should:
• Conduct a self-evaluation using criteria about how well it has put the above principles into practice
• Listen to sanctuary seekers and their views on how the group is impacting their lives
• Consult other groups which have won the award
• Contact the evaluators responsible for evaluating in their area
• Submit a report with evidence that the criteria have been met
• Participate in an appraisal
Appraisal committees will be appointed locally and regionally (depending on the nature of the award), but ultimately accountable to a small national Appraisal Committee on the board of trustees of the City of Sanctuary national charity.
The award will be made at an appropriate ceremony and marked with a certificate of achievement.
More specific criteria are available on awards which are already ‘live’ within the movement, including:
 cities or towns of sanctuary (see below)
 schools of sanctuary (see separate document)
 maternity services of sanctuary (see separate document)
As follow up to the award, the successful group or organisationwill:
• Spread the word about sanctuary within peer and other available circles
• Participate in reviews of the award status every three years.


Some groups may wish for their town or city to be given a sanctuary award and hence to be recognised locally and nationally as a City or Town of Sanctuary. They may feel that such a move will help to develop a culture of welcome, raise the profile of the movement and be the right course of action in the context they face. It can provide added impetus to the core aims of the movement, although it should not be seen as end in itself. Some places have found that recognition can bring real and tangible benefits.

Others may choose to pursue their aims and objectives in other ways. For example, City of Sanctuary groups have developed links with their local authorities without seeking recognition. In some areas it may be difficult to gain recognition because the local authority is unwilling to give its support at that particular time. This is not a barrier to action.

Proposed Process
1. The local group develops its own strategy in a way that is relevant to the situation in its own town or city. This strategy should propose specific criteria to be met, based on the six action points and the three core values above, before the town or city would be ‘recognised’ as a Town or City of Sanctuary.

2. The local group’s strategy is presented at a regional network meeting and/or circulated to groups in the region for comment.

3. When the local group believes it has achieved its initial goals, it submits an application to the City of Sanctuary National Appraisal Committee, detailing how it has met the criteria set out in its strategy.

4. The National Appraisal Committee will set up a Recognition Group, to be chaired by the National Co-ordinator. Other members will be:
• The Chair or a committee member of an already recognised City of Sanctuary, preferably from the applicant town/city’s own region.
• A representative of the local refugee community.
• A national Trustee not connected to the applicant towen/city
• A representative of a national refugee organisation.

5. The Recognition Group considers the application: this may involve email communication between the members, a phone conference or, in some cases, a meeting.

6. The Recognition Group may ask questions, make suggestions, or recommend further work before awarding official recognition.

7. Recognition is awarded.

8. Following recognition the town or city will continue to develop a culture of welcome and to monitor the progress it is making. Recognition as an official City or Town of Sanctuary is not the end of the process as there is always further work to do.

Continued recognition will be subject to a three yearly review process in which groups representing recognised towns and cities will be required to submit evidence of substantial ongoing activity and attend regional City of Sanctuary meetings. Such towns and cities need to show they have actively responded to any additional guidelines agreed by the National Trustees.