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Sanctuary on Sea forum plans response to refugee crisis

Supporters of Sanctuary on Sea are fizzing with plans to help refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in the city and elsewhere after a packed meeting last week.

More than 120 people gathered at Brighton Minority Ethnic Community Partnership (BMECP)’s premises to discuss the refugee crisis and Brighton & Hove’s response, under the auspices of the city’s branch of the national City of Sanctuary movement.

Sanctuary on Sea had decided that time originally planned for their AGM and a celebration of their first anniversary would be better spent bringing together people and organisations after witnessing the outpouring of goodwill towards refugees and migrants in the city and proliferation of initiatives.

The Council was determined to put the words, ‘City of Sanctuary’ into action, Cllr Emma Daniel told participants. Brighton & Hove was a ‘small city with a big heart’ and the five Syrian families the city had committed to taking was ‘not a limit’. She urged people to contact the foster caring service, as orphans were one of the priority groups, while those who had offered to host refugees might consider offering their room to Sussex Night Stop for a homeless young person.

Caroline Lucas, MP said our hearts were as big as Birmingham’s, Liverpool and Bristol and she hoped that ways could be found to bring more families in. She had urged David Cameron to go beyond the 20,000 places over five years that he had announced: there was a lot more we could do to be more compassionate and open, particularly by relaxing the rules on family reunion. Exiled Zimbabwean journalist Forward Maisokwadzo, City of Sanctuary’s media and communications officer, invited participants to imagine themselves on that “long, meandering journey to safety” and urged them to attend Sanctuary in Parliament on 1st December.

Groups of participants coalesced around themes such as accommodation for asylum seekers and Syrian refugees, emergency donations for refugees in Calais and elsewhere, longer-term integration support in Brighton & Hove, campaigning for changes in policy and public awareness-raising through the media and events. Common themes emerged from the discussions, such as the pain and frustration of families being separated, while there was a clear need for more cooperation and coordination.

“Together,” said Jenny Lansdell, Sanctuary on Sea’s Chair, closing the meeting,  “we can create an even more welcoming culture in the city and bring more and more people to Brighton and Hove who will be able to say ‘Now we can sleep with our eyes closed’.”

If you would like to know more, contact Sanctuary on Sea at [email protected].