Cardiff has been officially recognised as a ‘City of Sanctuary’, becoming the seventh UK city to achieve this. To receive this accolade, Cardiff had to demonstrate how it welcomes new arrivals seeking a safe place to live after fleeing war or persecution.
City of Sanctuary is a national movement of local people, organisations and communities working together to make their cities welcoming for refugees and asylum seekers. Cardiff is Wales’ second city to officially be recognised, following Swansea in 2010, but is the first UK capital.
“This historic decision sends out a strong message of hope, optimism and inclusion at a time when we need it most” said Cardiff group secretary Jim Stewart. “We want to build on the traditional Welsh culture of welcome and make sure all people arriving and establishing themselves in our city feel safe, supported and have the opportunity to contribute to city life.”
The UK City of Sanctuary Appraisal Team, who visited the city on 4th June, were impressed by the range of activities going on. City of Sanctuary works through a pledging model, where public, private and third sector organisations sign a pledge to support the inclusion and welcome of sanctuary seekers in their work through learning about the issues they face, embedding these values into their work, and sharing the contribution which sanctuary seekers bring. Currently, more than 50 organisations have signed up, and the group are keen to attract more.
Jonathan Ellis of the Appraisal Team said “One of the real strengths we saw during our visit was the synergy between the core organisations working together to bring about a culture of welcome and inclusion.”
The delegation visited drop-in centres Oasis Cardiff in Splott and Trinity Church (just off Newport Road), and heard from staff, volunteers and sanctuary seekers themselves about their experiences of living and working in Cardiff.
Anisa, a refugee from Afghanistan, said “I was forced to flee the war in my own country and it was completely by chance that I ended up in Cardiff. I have lived here for almost 3 years now, and have had to start from scratch, making friends, learning the language and finding voluntary and now paid work. It’s not been easy, but I feel so lucky to have been sent here – I feel safe and able to contribute my part to welcoming others now.”
The achievement has also been welcomed by the Welsh Government’s Communities Minister, Jeff Cuthbert, who said: “I’m immensely proud that Cardiff has followed in the footsteps of its neighbour Swansea, becoming recognised as Wales’ second City of Sanctuary. The accolade is testament to the culture of inclusion, tolerance and welcome that our capital offers to people who have been forced to flee their home countries through no fault of their own.”
An official launch event will be held at the National Museum Cardiff, Cathays Park, on Saturday 21 June from 10:30am, to coincide with Refugee Week (16-22 June 2014).
The City of Sanctuary movement is UK-wide, with some 30 towns and cities involved. The aim of City of Sanctuary is to develop a culture of welcome and hospitality for those fleeing war and persecution. Of the 30 towns and cities involved there are only seven cities that have been officially recognised as a City of Sanctuary, with Cardiff becoming the 7th on Wednesday 4 June. The seven recognised Cities of Sanctuary, and the date they were recognised, are:
1. Sheffield, 2007
2. Swansea, May 2010
3. Bradford, November 2010
4. Coventry, March 2011
5. Bristol, June 2011
6. Newcastle, June 2014
7. Cardiff, June 2014
The organisations who sit on the Cardiff City of Sanctuary steering group include, in alphabetical order: Cardiff City Council, Displaced People in Action, Diverse Cymru, Evangelical Alliance Wales, Home4U, Horn Development Association, Oasis Cardiff, Oxfam Cymru, Refugee Action, SOVA, Taff Housing, Terrence Higgins Trust, Tros Gynnal Plant, VCS Cardiff & Welsh Refugee Council.