Like The Star, I am proud that Sheffield became the first of over 30 Cities of Sanctuary.
A City of Sanctuary is a place of safety and welcome for people whose lives are in danger in their own countries. Asylum seekers are not economic migrants, but have fled vicious genocidal wars or tyrannical regimes bent on extinguishing their race, character or beliefs.
If they make it here, they meet a brick wall of Border Agency disbelief and a Government policy of destitution – they can be jailed for trying to work for a living. They also face isolation and local hostility from an ill-informed minority who brand all foreigners as scroungers or extremists.
Asylum seekers have to go where they are sent by the Home Office, and City of Sanctuary does not invite them to Sheffield, but aims to reduce their isolation once they here.
Small things such as being able to practise English in a conversation club or join in gardening projects make a big difference to people who because they are persecuted in their homelands are strongly motivated to fit in here, but constantly fear being forcibly returned to life-threatening situations back “home”.
It is not about handouts, and although like many community-based groups it has Council support, it is not a Council project.
Working with a wide variety of local groups it taps into our British culture of hospitality, tolerance and above all support for the underdog.
J Robin Hughes