Refugee groups welcome vote for Sunderland to become a ‘City of Sanctuary’

Councillors want Sunderland to become a ‘City of Sanctuary’ for people fleeing violence and persecution.

At a full council meeting on June 22, councillors voted unanimously to make the city a safe place for refugees and asylum seekers. The vote comes during Refugee Week, with groups across the city coming together in support.

The motion was forwarded by deputy council leader Cllr Claire Rowntree. It promotes the inclusion and welfare of people in Sunderland fleeing violence and persecution.

The motion also commits to continuing to be a place of welcome and safety for all, supported by organisations such as Friends of the Drop-In, Fightback and ICOS. Councillors from across the political spectrum supported the motion.

Sunderland City Council is to make Sunderland a "City of Sanctuary" for people fleeing violence and persecution.

The meeting was also attended by Ukrainian refugees Dan, Roman and Victoria, who have recently found refuge in Sunderland through the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Dan and Roman are currently guests of Cllr Phil Tye.

The move was welcomed by Revd Chris Howson, chair of Sunderland City of Sanctuary.

He said: “May I express my delight at the overwhelming support for this motion from all the political parties. It shows that we are united in this city in our desire to make it a welcoming and safe place for those fleeing persecution.

“It is now down to all of us; neighbours, schools, companies, places of worship; to help build a culture of friendship across every aspect of our city.

Sunderland Minster has been showing symbols of support for refugees.

“We need to challenge misconceptions and offer support in practical ways, strengthening the work of all those already working with refugees.”

Steve Newman, chair of Friends of the Drop In, said: “On behalf of our volunteers and clients, FODI would like to thank Sunderland City Council for passing this motion. We look forward to working with the council to turn the motion into an everyday reality.”

Sam Slatcher, Stories of Sanctuary coordinator, said: “It’s a timely moment as we celebrate Refugee Week this week and all the contributions people seeking sanctuary make to this city: from the arts to education, to healthcare and heritage, to volunteering in the community and promoting sport.”

Cllr Rowntree said: “It’s quite overwhelming to hear this level of support. We have much more in common than that which divides us, and this collective effort can only mean great things for our amazing city.”

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