York City of Sanctuary; Co-ordinator’s Annual report 2019

I was pleased to make a visit to the House of Commons in November 2018, when, with 2 other members of our Board of Trustees, we met with MPs from across the political spectrum. We raised concerns about the Government’s continuing ‘hostile environment’ policy towards asylum seekers and refugees since 2010. An opportunity to lobby MPs is available later this year, again organised by the National City of Sanctuary movement.

A successful bid to the Guardian Fund financed our 2018 ‘Welcome to York’ programme. Visits were made from other cities and towns in the region to York. Those who came, refugees from many parts of the world, were deeply appreciative of the hospitality and friendship which YCoS hosts provided. That programme continues this year, and a number of visits have already taken place in 2019.

I was delighted that York St. John University met criteria required to be awarded University of Sanctuary status (November 2018). As part of our local strategy, the Board plans to invite and support other places of Further Education, and schools, to learn embed, and share the culture of welcome and hospitality which is at the heart of the Sanctuary movement.

A pilot project trialled in York involves Oxfam exploring ‘Shops of Sanctuary’. Refugees have volunteered in shops, staff looked at issues facing refugees and asylum seekers, and publicity was shared with customers of events such as Refugee Week. It has been a successful programme, and plans are in hand to expand the scheme nationally.

The Compass Programme collects clothing, bedding, furniture and household goods in York, and re-distributes them locally and regionally. It is well supported and efficiently organised. Volunteers have also been at work assisting with English conversation and home visits. All of this work is thanks to our Project and Team Leaders and the volunteers who assist them.

  • In advocacy, in the year we assisted asylum seeker applications to the Home Office (6 cases)
  • Helped refugees obtain leave to remain in the UK permanently (7)
  •  Supported applications for UK citizenship to qualified refugees (5)
  •  Assisted applications for housing benefits and tax credits (14)
  •  Supported re-location of refugees in housing (19)
  • Provided emergency bed nights to refugees (153 nights)
  • Found support for those refused asylum to appeal their cases (5)

None of the above are issues which require just one visit or phone call. Some are still on-going after 12 months of work. We work closely with Refugee Action York on a number of cases. The hardship fund assists our advocacy work and we are grateful for all donations which support our work.

I want to thank the Board of Trustees, Project and Team Leaders, Volunteers, and all those who support the work of York City of Sanctuary. Together, we do ‘make a difference’ –giving clear signs through the practical work which is done, in partnership with many other organisations and agencies across our community, that York is a place of welcome, hospitality and support to sanctuary seekers who come to our city.

Paul Wordsworth

City of Sanctuary UK Information