TWO councillors are hoping the north Cumbria can be officially classed as a place of sanctuary for refugees.

Councillors Helen Tucker (Cockermouth North, Labour) and Helen Davison (Belah, Green Party) have submitted a motion which proposes such a move and it will be heard at next week's meeting of Cumberland Council.

It states: "Refugees seeking sanctuary is not a recent phenomenon.

"History is littered with examples of desperate people fleeing war, religious persecution, famine and more recently persecution on the basis of sexual orientation.

"The UK has a commendable record of welcoming refugees: from thousands of Huguenots in the sixteenth century, and Jews escaping fascism in the twentieth century, to Afghans, Syrians and Ukrainians fleeing aggression in this decade.

"Cumberland Council recognises the significant contribution that refugees and those seeking asylum have made in our area and beyond.

"Cumberland Council understands the important role it can play in welcoming people who are fleeing violence and persecution by offering them safety and sanctuary.

"It also recognises the criticality of joint working in this area and the huge contribution that community groups and the voluntary sector play in supporting refugees when they arrive."

The motion calls on the council to join the Cities of Sanctuary UK network and work towards achieving the Local Authority Sanctuary Award.

Sheffield became the first ‘City of Sanctuary’ in 2005 and since then, the Cities of Sanctuary UK network has evolved to encompass more than 100 cities and local authority areas, with new areas continuing to join according to the motion.

It states: "It supports and grows networks of welcome, from community groups to schools, universities and local councils to libraries and theatres.

"Cumberland Council is well-placed to work towards the Place of Sanctuary award, given the record of our predecessor councils in taking action consistent with “Sanctuary Status” programmes.

"[This] includes welcoming refugees under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, welcoming Afghan families resettled under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy, and most recently welcoming families from Ukraine and supporting residents in asylum hotels."

To ensure Cumberland is a Place of Sanctuary, the council will:

  • Join the City of Sanctuary Local Authority Network.  In joining the network, the Council agrees to sign up as a Supporting Organisation and commits to start work towards the Council of Sanctuary Award;
  • Strengthen the voice of refugee and other migrant groups so they can influence the council directly, and work with community organisations who are supporting refugees and other migrant populations;
  • Work across all directorates to ensure that Place of Sanctuary status is part of the council’s culture and values, alongside anti-racism, and other initiatives to promote equality and good relations in the community;
  • Ensure that community panels understand the needs of community groups and volunteers currently providing essential support for refugees and other migrants in our community;
  • Mark the contribution of refugee and migrant communities through annual events like Refugee Week;
  • Fact-check anti-refugee and anti-migrant statements and rebut incorrect or misleading claims;
  • Take an evidence-based approach to evaluating outcomes for refugees and other migrant groups and ensure that staff and members receive accurate information and relevant training;
  • Incorporate Place of Sanctuary into the development and delivery of Cumberland’s statutory Equality Objectives.

According to the motion working towards the City of Sanctuary Award will enable Cumberland Council to achieve the following outcomes:

  • Improved community cohesion and better relations between refugees, other migrants, and the wider population;
  • Greater awareness and understanding of the experience of refugees and other migrants within the community;
  • A stronger response to potential hate crimes and extremism directed against refugees and other migrants;
  • A public health approach which ensures that refugees and migrants receive an equitable standard of public services and do not suffer discrimination due to cultural, linguistic, or other needs related to being new to the area;
  • That strategies, policies, procedures, and impact assessments consider the needs of refugees and other migrants;
  • Developing system-wide and other approaches to key challenges that refugees and new arrivals experience (leading to improved socio-economic medium and long-term outcomes, and improved health outcomes for new arrivals and reduced need to access emergency services in the long term).

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Tuesday's (November 21) public council meeting is due to start at 1pm and will be held in the Civic Centre in Carlisle.