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Sheffield City of Sanctuary News
Sheffield has been receiving international recognition as an example of refugee and migrant integration. Over the past month (May) City of Sanctuary has been invited to participate in three international events to showcase and discuss our work with colleagues from around the world.
At a recent European conference organised by the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations (UN), Sheffield staff helped run a workshop on refugee integration in universities. At the same event, Sheffield Council’s Director of Community Services Jan Fitzgerald told delegates about the council’s pride in being the UK’s first City of Sanctuary.
City of Sanctuary was also held up as an example of a ‘welcoming city’ at a seminar in Seville hosted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). And on Wednesday we will feature in an international ‘webinar’ discussing ‘good ideas’ in integration. To take part in this you can register on the Cities of Migration website here.
City of Sanctuary Management Committee member Ouattara Houadjotany has become a British Citizen at a special ceremony at Sheffield Town Hall. He was one of some 30 people from more than 17 different countries welcomed to the city by the Lord Mayor, Councillor Sylvia Dunkley.
Ouattara has been in the UK some 10 years and was granted refugee status three years ago. He has been a member of the management committee since the movement began and has an ambition to set up a City of Sanctuary group in his birth country, Cote d’Ivoire.
City of Sanctuary has set off on a new path in its development following the appointment of a separate committee to take forward the national movement. This means Sheffield staff will be managed and operate independently though still connected with the rapidly growing network.
The City of Sanctuary movement which now has working groups in more than 26 towns and cities will retain its historic links with Sheffield, mainly in the figure of its new President and founder Inderjit Bhogal.
The new committee (pictured) consists of 13 members nominated by Cities of Sanctuary from Glasgow to Swansea, whose representative Alan Williams is the new Chair.
City of Sanctuary has joined other asylum support groups in seeking to plug any gaps left when the City Council’s asylum team is disbanded following the loss of a key contract. Until this year the Council has managed housing and related services for asylum seekers in the city but recently lost the contract to a global security firm, G4S.
The decision was greeted with concern by people seeking sanctuary and their supporters because the firm has previously been investigated for its treatment of asylum seekers in detention centres. Local groups are concerned about the future of crucial services such as the Victoria Hall ‘drop-in’ where newly arrived asylum seekers can go for assistance and advice.
City of Sanctuary is in discussion with the City Council and colleagues in the asylum support sector to ensure such vital support is maintained.
The author of a report about the fate of asylum seekers sent back to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is urging people to sign up to an e-petition calling on a halt to deportations to the country. Catherine Ramos was addressing the annual meeting of the South Yorkshire Migration & Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG), some of whose members have fled persecution in DRC.
Catherine’s report, “Unsafe Return” catalogues what happened to 17 asylum seekers whose applications for sanctuary were refused on the grounds that they had no fear of persecution if they were sent home. Her research showed that 13 of the deportees were detained on arrival in DRC and five reported suffering ill-treatment including rape and torture while in detention.
City of Sanctuary has been working alongside SYMAAG to lobby the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg over the Government’s inactivity in monitoring what happens to asylum seekers once they’ve been returned to their country of origin.
They did it! On Sunday, ASSIST’s team of runners crossed the finishing line of the Great Yorkshire Run.
It might have been the zingy t-shirts, or maybe the powerade – but those guys are fast. Sam H ran his 10k in an stunning 43 minutes and Rachel was first for the girls at 57. But everyone came in with excellent times, including some personal bests. It was a brilliant team effort, and they were still smiling at the end!
The team are well on target to raise £2,000 for ASSIST, from personal donations and those sent to JustGiving/s website, where you can still add your own contribution here.
A group of volunteer fund-raisers have received a welcome boost from Barclays Bank which has pledged to match every penny they raise for ASSIST. The athletes, who’re taking part in the Great Yorkshire Run in Sheffield on Sunday October 9th are hoping to raise more than £500 for the local charity that helps destitute asylum seekers.
The team of volunteers, refugees, asylum seekers and friends come from seven countries and speak a total of 12 languages. Some of them have been prompted to attempt the 10km run by having benefited themselves from the work of ASSIST.
To find out more about the ASSIST Runners – including updates on how our training is progressing – or to sponsor the team please visit www.justgiving.com/assist-runners or contact us at email@example.com. For more information on ASSIST Sheffield, please visit http://www.assistsheffield.org.uk/.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg has said he would be concerned if the UK did not monitor what happened to refused asylum seekers after they have been deported. He was commenting during a meeting with City of Sanctuary and other refugee support organisations in Sheffield.
Mr Clegg said he would be interested to see an upcoming report about the alleged mistreatment of a number of asylum seekers returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Responding to earlier concerns about monitoring the Immigration Minister Damien Green wrote that the UK was ‘under no obligation to monitor the treatment of individual failed asylum seekers who return to their country of origin.’ He added that this should not be interpreted as disinterest and if the UK Border Agency received specific allegations of ill-treatment they would be investigated by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
More than 50 representatives from City of Sanctuary groups all over the country got together in a beautiful Pennine setting for the movement’s first ever national ‘Awayday’.
During the course of 24 hours we heard about all the different ways people are putting the City of Sanctuary ethos into practice according to specific local circumstances -
Refugee Week has got off to a colourful start with a celebration featuring local Romano Jilo Dance Group. The event, in Burngreave Welcome Centre was attended by about a hundred people from a range of Sheffield’s many cultures, and was opened by Councillor Mike Rooney, Sheffield Council cabinet member with responsibility for communities.