At a celebration in Birmingham Council House the second city was recognised as a place where refugees seeking sanctuary can expect a welcome. Birmingham joins other towns and cities across the UK who have embraced the movement to ensure support for asylum seekers and refugees fleeing war or persecution. Birmingham is recognised because of the extensive services and efforts of local people and community groups who have already committed to creating a culture of welcome and safety in the City.
The local campaign has been supported by over 1000 individuals who have pledged support and many organisations including the City Council, the local Birmingham Mail, Universities, faith groups, schools and businesses.
At the event Councillor Shafique Shah, Cabinet member for Inclusion and Community Safety spoke
about the contribution that refugees and other migrants make to the diverse city. He urged local community organisations to build partnerships welcoming new arrivals and supporting their integration. Birmingham is one of the cities participating in the government scheme to support vulnerable Syrians arriving from refugee camps in the Middle East. Councillor Shah told the meeting that the first of these would be arriving in Birmingham before Christmas.
Over 100 people attended the event and heard from a range of speakers. Professor Peter Lutzeier, Vice Chancellor of Newman University spoke about the places that are made available to refugee students at Newman and the bursaries that support them. Funding is raised by staff and students at the University and the whole effort is a response to Article 26 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights requiring a right to education for all.
Margaret Hooper from Oasis Church in Edgbaston told delegates about the weekly meal that is shared with refugees and newly arrived asylum seekers from the hostel accommodation nearby. Over 100 people attend and many help with preparations and support for newcomers.
Matthew Tehan from St.Chads Primary School told the meeting about the benefits and pleasure from investing to make your school a place of sanctuary for children and their parents.
Marsela Hoxha who has a successful career managing services for new arrivals arrived in Birmingham as an asylum seeker. She spoke about the value of practical and neighbourly support that her family received from a community organisation in the accommodation that they were placed in.
As people registered they were treated to music from a local band Afro Mio and the meeting was formally opened
by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Ray Hassall. The City of Sanctuary organisers emphasised that this was the beginning of a journey and encouraged each participant to make a useful contact and leave with a new idea about how to develop welcome. City of Sanctuary Supporters talk about progress and aspirations.