Salford City Council has made its first steps to become a City of Sanctuary.
On the 19th January 2022 councillors approved a City of Sanctuary motion at the Full Council meeting, a process that must take place to gain official status.
City of Sanctuary is a national charity that builds partnerships between towns and cities, to build a network of support for refugees and other people needing help.
Councillor Wilson Nkurunziza who proposed the motion said: “In Salford we celebrate diversity and embrace all people regardless of their background. It is important that people who are fleeing their homes are met with support, care and respect. We recognise the contribution of refugees and migrants that make this city the amazing place that it is.
“In Salford we have a proud track record of going above the call of duty to support refuges and asylum seekers despite huge pressures on our own budgets and services. The failed and unfair dispersal system puts a huge pressure on deprived areas of the country where the most affluent areas do little to help the national effort.”
Salford is the home of the Northwest Refugees Centre Healthcare Professional Education (REACHE) which was launched in 2003 to help refugees and people seeking healthcare professions in the UK. So far it has helped more than 200 people, mainly doctors, to integrate their overseas qualifications and gain employment in the NHS.
The city has two secondary schools and seven primary schools which are recognised as schools of sanctuary. And the University of Salford provides scholarships to people seeking asylum who cannot access student finance and therefore enrolment into higher education.
Councillor Wilson Nkurunziza continued: “We want to join the network of councils who are promoting the inclusion and welfare of people who are fleeing violence and persecution to officially become a City of Sanctuary.
“And we will continue to campaign and lobby government – particularly to give people seeking asylum and their adult dependent the right to work, unconstrained by the Shortage Occupation List. Concerns have also been raised about the controversial Nationality Borders Bill which will revoke British Citizenship without notice or legal oversight whatsoever. We have called on the government to amend the bill to ensure that our most respected judicial system is given its place.”
The exact working of the motion:
To be moved by Councillor Wilson Nkurunziza and seconded by Councillor John Walsh.
This Council notes that:
1. Salford City Council celebrates diversity through its support for activities and events in the community aiming to welcome and to embrace all people regardless of their background.
2. The Council continues to celebrate Refugee Week every year in which we celebrate the contribution of refugees and migrants across the City of Salford.
3. Salford City Council is a home of the Northwest Refugees Centre Healthcare Professional Education (REACHE) which is hosted by Salford Royal Hospital since its launch in 2003. The Centre has been set up to assist refugees and people seeking access to healthcare professions in the UK. It has helped more than 200 people, predominately doctors, integrate their overseas qualification and gain employment in the NHS.
4. The ‘hostile environment’ policies pursued by this Government have made it harder for refugees and those seeking asylum to access services – particularly those who cannot prove their right to remain in the UK. People seeking asylum are left to live on just over £5.00 per day, with no recourse to public funds and unable to work. This leaves many struggling to support themselves and their family resulting in the majority left vulnerable to destitution, isolation and exploitation.
5. Salford City Council is concerned about the controversial Nationality and Borders Bill particularly clause 9 which stipulates that British Citizenship can be revoked without notice or any legal oversight whatsoever. It is clear that the Government should amend the bill to ensure that our most respected judicial system in the world is given its place.
6. Since 2002, people seeking asylum are only able to apply for the right to work after they have waited over 12 months for an initial decision on their asylum claim, and only if they can be employed into one of the narrow, high skilled professions included on the government’s shortage occupation shortage list. The change in policy could benefit the UK economy by £42.4 millions via increased taxable income and reduced payments of accommodation and subsistence support (Reference : Lift ban report published in October 2018)
7. Restrictions on right to work can lead to extremely poor mental health outcomes, and waste of potentially invaluable talents and skills both for the economy of Salford and the UK.
8. Salford City Council goes above and beyond in the call of duty to support refugees and asylum seekers despite huge pressures on our own budgets and services. The Government’s failed and unfair asylum dispersal scheme puts significant pressure on the most deprived areas of the UK like Salford whereas the most affluent council areas do little to help the national effort.
9. The work of ‘Salford City of Sanctuary Steering Group’ supported by Salford CVS, Salford Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (under the children services’ directorate) as well as the Salford Forum for Refugees and People seeking Asylum, have been fundamental in bringing together local charities, community groups and the University of Salford to progress the plan of becoming a ‘City of Sanctuary’.
10. Salford has two secondary schools and seven primary schools recognised as schools of sanctuary with numbers continuing to increase. The University of Salford is providing scholarships every year to young people seeking asylum who cannot access student finance and therefore enrolment into higher education.
This council further notes:
1. That, throughout the pandemic, Salford Council’s support services under ‘Spirit of Salford’ Helpline have helped anyone who needed support regardless of their immigration status
2. A Bed Every Night Scheme has been set to provide a bed and personal support to anyone who is sleeping rough or at imminent risk of sleeping rough in Greater Manchester. Greater Manchester Combined Authority has supported 60 people at any one time who have No Recourse to Public Funds due to their immigration status. Greater Manchester Combined Authority do not receive funding to support them.
3. Salford hosts asylum seeker mental health consultation services funded through the Greater Manchester Mental Health Foundation Trust which provides professional support to deal with lived experiences resulting in trauma, PTSD etc.
4. Salford recently launched its new ‘Equality and Inclusion Strategy’ which is aiming to address all forms of social inequalities to achieve a fairer and more inclusive Salford for all.
5. That, the City Council has a good reputation in respect to the representation of Councillors who are from a refugee background.
This council resolves to:
1. Join the network of Cities and Towns which promote the inclusion and welfare of people who are fleeing violence and persecution in their own countries and become a recognised “City of Sanctuary”.
2. Call on the Government to give people seeking asylum and their adult dependent the right to work, unconstrained by the Shortage Occupation List, after waiting six months for a decision on their initial claim or further submission.
3. Continue to be a welcoming place of safety for all, proud to offer sanctuary to people fleeing violence and persecution.
4. Recognise the contribution of refugees and people seeking asylum across the city of Salford.
5. Continue to promote diversity through recognition and celebration of our different cultures that exist across Salford.
6. Encourage integration and community cohesion by strengthening links between refugees, those seeking asylum and local communities.
7. Challenge discrimination and negative perceptions of refugees and those seeking asylum.
8. Whilst we appreciate that central government do support A Bed Every Night Scheme (ABEN) to eradicate rough sleeping in Greater Manchester. This is not the case for this people with no recourse to public funds who require emergency accommodation and a means to meet daily living costs. We call on the government to provide financial support to all people who are destitute and without income.
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