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Brighton becomes a beacon to others as City Council recognises Sanctuary on Sea

Good news from Brighton and Hove: in almost the last act of the city administration before local elections, Councillors from all the main parties have voted for the city to be recognised as a City of Sanctuary and to offer a lifeline to Syrian refugees on the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Programme.

Jenny Lansdell, chair of Sanctuary on Sea, said she was delighted:

“ We will be the first city whose council is not only endorsing our becoming a City of Sanctuary but is at the same time calling to receive a group of Syrian refugees. This is a huge sign for those who come here seeking safety that they are wanted, cared about, and belong here.”

In an emotional Council session, some speakers had spoken of their ancestors who had fled pogroms in Eastern Europe, others talked about the Ugandan Asians who had settled in Portslade and were now part of the community. All were proud of Brighton’s tradition of celebrating its diverse residents and welcoming the persecuted. The city should be a “beacon” to others, said Leo Littman, the Green Councillor behind the motion. The initiative had already had an impact: one landlord had read about it in a local paper and had called him to offer some affordable housing for Syrian refugees.

The almost unanimous support for the motion was tribute to the energetic campaigning of Sanctuary on Sea members, who had teamed up with city’s Amnesty International group to lobby Councillors. Now the groups will have to turn their attention to persuading landlords to provide accommodation for Syrian refugees – no easy task in a city where rents far exceed Housing Benefit.