A evening of talks and moving poetry, music and dance from around the world and frantic samba dancing on 13 October was attended by 200 people to launch a campaign to make Swindon a City of Sanctuary (CofS).
The aim is to raise the profile of the town as a place that promotes a culture of inclusion and hospitality towards refugees and asylum seekers living in the town.
CofS chair Nicola Johnson said: “People have come to our country to escape persecution but in troubled times there is uncertainty and fear here. “But there are good and kind people here who want to do what they can to create an atmosphere of welcome and harmony for people on the margins of society. Refugees and asylum seekers are not faceless or nameless, they all have their own stories like everybody who reads this article that need to be heard.”
South Swindon MP Robert Buckland addressed the launch event saying: “This is such a brilliantly supported event, a great testament to the town we live in. Swindon would not the town it is without the inflow of people from all over the world over the last 175 years.
“As solicitor general for the government I’ve seen the rise in hate crime - it has no place in Swindon or in this country. We must support the victims and prosecute the perpetrators.
“I’m proud there are willing people involved in organisations like the Harbour Project promoting inclusion and support of people who have come to our town in need of help. I would urge everybody to support the City of Sanctuary movement and make a practical contribution wherever they can, however small."
CofS awards towns and cities with sanctuary status once it is actively helping refugees to feel included within their communities. There are three different pledges: for individuals, for schools and one for businesses and community organisations.
You can do this at: www.swindon.cityofsanctuary.org
Watch a video of the launch event.
Find out more about the Harbour Project