Local non-profit Swindon City of Sanctuary are asking members of Swindon's political parties to agree to Swindon Borough Council becoming a 'Council of Sanctuary.'
This will be a decision for whatever party takes power after the elections on 4 May.
Across the UK, local authorities have declared themselves to be Councils of Sanctuary, committing their towns and cities to being places of inclusion and welcome – as well as agreeing that they will do everything they can in their own operations to support people seeking sanctuary.
Sheffield City Council became the first Council to make a pledge of support to be a City of Sanctuary in 2007.
Swansea City Council followed suit in 2008. Following this, Ipswich Borough Council (2012), Birmingham and Newcastle City Councils (2015), Hastings (2017) and the London Borough of Greenwich (2020) also passed Town or City of Sanctuary motions.
The past two years have seen an acceleration in the City of Sanctuary Local Authority Network, with Shrewsbury, Islington, Shropshire, York, Cheshire and West Northamptonshire all signing up to the principles in 2021.
Additionally, in 2022, Winchester, Gloucester, Salford, Reading, Oxford, Sunderland, Peterborough and five more London Boroughs passed motions in support.
With the elections to Swindon Borough Council now underway and polling day on Thursday 4 May approaching, Swindon City of Sanctuary is calling on the parties contesting the election to publicly state their commitment to ensuring that the town joins the ranks of those who have declared their towns and cities places of sanctuary, inclusion and welcome.
The City of Sanctuary team say this could be done as simply as the Council passing a motion setting out its commitment to be a place of a sanctuary – showing political recognition that people seeking sanctuary are not only entitled to claim asylum under the law, but that they also deserve a welcome, and support.
Swindon City of Sanctuary Trustee, Cristina Bennett, said: “Over the past several years, local authorities across the UK have declared that their towns and cities are places of welcome for those seeking sanctuary. It is time for Swindon to join their ranks.
“The people of Swindon have demonstrated time and again their generosity and open hearts towards those seeking a home in our town. We have seen it in the ‘Twenty Welcomes’ poem created by young people from Swindon schools, and in the enthusiasm for those places becoming Schools of Sanctuary; and we have seen it in the recent Fill the Skies with Hope campaign, where Swindonians wrote messages of welcome and hope.
“The past few months and years have seen an animated debate about migration, and about the basic right to seek asylum. But it’s important for us to remember that caught in the middle of that debate are people; people who often are fleeing from war and persecution.
“Each of the political parties taking part in the local elections has the chance to stand up and say that they will be on the side of those vulnerable people; that they will work to ensure that Swindon is a town where we embed and celebrate a culture of welcome and inclusion.
“We call on all parties to make a public commitment that, should they play a role in running Swindon Borough Council after 4 May, our town will take its proper place alongside others across the country as one with a Council of Sanctuary.”
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