LEWISHAM AWARDED “COUNCIL OF SANCTUARY”
The national charity City of Sanctuary has awarded Lewisham the status of “Council of Sanctuary” – the first time a UK local authority has received the honour. Here is a link to the public statement with supporting words from City of Sanctuary, Sadiq Khan and Lord Alf Dubs – a close friend of Lewisham’s (and one-time policy officer here).
The Sanctuary Awards are provided by a network of groups and City of Sanctuary UK to recognise and celebrate mainstream organisations’ commitment to the values and vision of the City of Sanctuary Charter. We were approved by a rigorous accreditation process that comprised City of Sanctuary staff, local migrant support groups and Lewisham residents with lived experience.
This is a major milestone in our manifesto and corporate strategy commitment to make Lewisham a true Borough of Sanctuary for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. As a council we have acted in partnership with many local community groups and highly motivated residents that we are so lucky to have across Lewisham. As a result, we have been able to turn our opposition to the “hostile environment” and our approach of listening and welcoming into real change.
Embedding the Sanctuary Approach
We have placed sanctuary principles at the heart of our service design:
- We approved our Sanctuary Strategy which embeds the sanctuary approach across all council services, with action plans that are regularly reviewed.
- We appointed the country’s first Sanctuary Programme Manager to oversee the implementation of the Sanctuary Strategy and work with local partners and national organisations.
- We made refugee resettlement the keystone of our commitment to sanctuary, with London’s leading resettlement programme containing a target of 100 families and 33 already welcomed in Lewisham. In addition we are committed to supporting an additional 100 unaccompanied asylum seeking children over the next 10 years.
Transforming local services
We know that many people with a migrant background face additional challenges when seeing to access local services, so we have been pro-active in removing barriers and providing additional support:
- Removing the Home Office’s embedded officer in the Council’s No Recourse to Public Funds service and using saved funds to pay for independent legal advice.
- Promoting Doctors of the World’s “Safe Surgeries” scheme so that undocumented migrants can safely visit every GP practice in Lewisham to obtain medical advice and receive Covid vaccines.
- Guaranteeing that no child in Lewisham should be denied free school meals because of their immigration status – Lewisham Council’s policy on Free School Meals for NRPF children.
- Refusing to collaborate with the Home Office on the new immigration rules on rough sleeping
Campaigning for change
We recognise that we are limited by law and national policy in our ability to provide support to refugees, asylum seekers and refugees. So we also campaign for change alongside other councils, national charities and our local partners in the Lewisham Migration Forum. Campaigns include:
- Co-ordinating the successful campaign by 16 London councils calling on the Government to resume refugee resettlement.
- Calling for a suspension of the No Recourse to Public Funds conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. See our letter to the Home Secretary regarding suspending the NRPF condition (PDF)
- Joining campaigns such as the ‘Lift the Ban’ which calls for the right to work for those who have claimed asylum and have waited more than 6 months for a decision. Read more about Lewisham’s involvement in the ‘Lift the Ban’ campaign.
- Challenging the Government’s plans for immigration reform. Read our response to the Government’s public consultation on their New Plan for Immigration.