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Thank you

Thanks to everyone who came along to the AGM held on 5th September at the Quaker Meeting House. It was the first public event staged there since March, so we were trailblazing. Thanks also to the many people who sent their apologies- which we have noted and recorded.

Stepping down after 3 years as a member of the Board of Trustees were Wendy Bennett, Selena Whitehead and Michael Worthington. Each one has made a unique contribution to work and progress of York City of Sanctuary.

Wendy has led us to the development of a strategy and business plan, which is an excellent model for future years. She also enabled us to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of all our work, in co-operation with students working with the Centre for Applied Human Rights. The report was finalised in March 2020, and the leadership team will look in depth at the findings and recommendations as we move forward into 2021.

Selena took the lead in developing the pilot project ‘Shops of Sanctuary’, collaborating with the 3 Oxfam shops in York. This was a national pilot, so she also reported to the City of Sanctuary regional and national network. She helped to ensure the Christmas Concert (December 2019) was a great success, and was involved in supporting the Summer Barbecue at Bootham School (also 2019). Selena has been a model of the ‘hands on’ active trustee.

Michael has been our treasurer and latterly, Chair of the Board and team leadership. He took on a good deal of the administrative work involved in our application to become a charity in 2017. As our treasurer, he has been always up to date in giving us a clear understanding of the financial situation. He leaves our organisation in a healthy state of affairs. The Board has greatly benefitted from Michael’s thoughtful and wise contribution.

We send all three former members of the Board our grateful thanks and our best wishes for future days.

The AGM accepted the nomination of Dee Boyle as a new member of the Board.

This is an excellent appointment, since Dee is no newcomer to York City of Sanctuary. She was involved in the early years, serving as a member on the management team, when we were still a voluntary organisation.  She has experience as a trustee, and that includes a charity supporting Tibetan refugees. Dee is a member of the York Interfaith Group, and we shall be pleased to deepen and refresh that link.

Amongst others moving on is Tricia Miller who has been an excellent leader of our Compass Programme for a number of years. She has also served on the management team in our developing years, and gave time to assist the Board of Trustees in the first year of our charitable status. She and her husband are moving to Scotland, and we wish them a smooth transition and a safe settlement close to their family.

You will see from all these movements that we now need to appoint a treasurer to the organisation, have 2 vacancies to the Board, and will be looking to find a Compass Programme leader.  That is quite a list. However, we feel optimistic that amongst our supporters, there are people with the skills and experience to step up and apply for one of the vacant roles.  At the end of this newsletter are application forms for the role of Trustee/ volunteer. That is the first step to us recruiting the right people for our team. Share your experience and what you could bring to the table.  We are looking forward to hearing from you.

The role of Treasurer may not be everyone’s skill, but you may know someone who ‘can do’ accounting to the level we require. Ours is not a large and complicated business, and our turnover is quite small. All of our work is done by volunteers, and the time put in by them would amount to over £40k a year if we had to pay them. So, we do punch above our weight, due to the generosity of our supporters and their free gift of skills and time. If you know someone who may be willing to serve us as treasurer then do point them in our direction.

Excellent breaking news 

The University of York has been working for some time to put together an application which meets the criteria to become a University of Sanctuary. I am delighted to say that on 24th September the Appraisal panel agreed that the Sanctuary award should be made.

The National University of Sanctuary Programme Co-ordinator wrote;

We were all very impressed with the work you and your colleagues have done, and the panel said it was lovely to spend time speaking with you all.  We will be in touch on how to build on your success over the coming months. We look forward to working with York on these and other projects as an integral part of the UoS network.

Congratulations to all who have worked to put together this application. Thanks also to our own trustee, Claire Newhouse, assisted by Ahmed Khaleel who have been our local links with the application team and the regional and national CoS organisers.

Coming Soon

The Acomb and Friargate Quaker meetings invite you to 3 meetings on the theme; ‘Local action for social justice’

The first meeting takes place on Tuesday 6th October; 7.15 pm for 7.30 pm and will last 1 hour.

The theme is Local Action for Refugees, and speakers will be Leigh Bell (Yorkshire Aid), John Williamson (Refugee Action York), and Paul Wordsworth (York City of Sanctuary).

The number of attendees is limited, and it is a zoom link meeting. Register your intention to attend in order to be sent the zoom link.

Register with Friargate York Quakers

Wednesday 7th October; ‘Climate Crisis and Climate Justice’ – Extinction Rebellion; Speaker – Adam Myers

7.30pm start on zoom. Register with [email protected]

Thursday 8th October; ‘Racism in York’ – York Racial Equality Network; Speaker- Daryoush Mazloum

7.30pm start on zoom. Register with [email protected]

Here for a while

The 90 asylum seekers who arrived in early Summer at a hotel in York, continue to be in residence there. Refugee Action York and York City of Sanctuary have provided a good number of smartphones and iPhones, to replace the ones confiscated by the Home Office from those who recently arrived in the UK. The practice of removing phones from asylum seekers has been confirmed by the Home Office, who claim that it is done to check whether individuals are being trafficked.  It does mean that individuals lose contact with family, legal support, and the means of being in touch with the Home Office to enquire about their case. People also lose all the personal data carried on their phones. Retrieving phones has so far proved a fruitless exercise. This does appear to be a real infringement of human rights, and questions are to be asked about this policy.

Thanks to everyone who contributed phones to meet a very real need. Your generosity has exceeded our most optimistic hopes. Clothing has also been provided, since many people arrived only with the clothes they were wearing. The original plan was that the hotel would be used up to September. That date has been extended and people are likely to be there until much closer to Christmas.

That means the Summer clothing and lightweight footwear of the past few months will not be suitable as we move into Autumn and Winter. Many of those in the hotel will never have experienced temperatures similar to our Winter season. With our partners RAY, we are now appealing for clothing for young males, which will be warm. Our priority will be socks, gloves, hats, scarves, overcoats, parkas, jumpers, and sturdy mens shoes. There are a number of collecting points across the city, so when you have collected items, you can make contact with me on [email protected] or text 07745 380987. I can then find the nearest delivery point or arrange collection.

The placing of large numbers of asylum seekers in hotels has drawn a good deal of hostility from far-right groups. Therefore, the most recent development is that the Home Office is exploring placing new arrivals in former army camps and redundant prisons. Most of those sites are in remote locations, and surrounded by heavy defences. Those seeking asylum are not criminals and should not be treated as though they need to be locked away. Once again, the Government policy of creating an environment hostile to immigration shows itself.

The work of welcome goes on

We are currently not able to provide our Welcome to York programme. The Compass project is also limited in what can be delivered to our partners in Bradford, Wakefield, and Hull. However, we keep in touch with refugees and asylum seekers in the city, by phone, text and emails. We are also assisting cases which are in the hands of the Home Office, as their regional offices stir into some semblance of life again. It is too early to say when we might resume some or all of our previous activities. Covid19 is not going away any time soon, and we may have to accept a different way of living without going back to ‘the way things were’.

However, we are building up good partnerships with others in the city who are working with us. It is an opportunity to explore new ways of collaborating and sharing resources.  We are aware of how much good and caring work is going on in the city to assist, support and encourage people in these difficult times.  We take heart from the good things that are happening to ensure that York rightly has the title of ‘City of Sanctuary.’