Leader calls for Preston to become City of Sanctuary

Welcome: An event for refugees in Preston hosted by the Red Cross earlier this year
Welcome: An event for refugees in Preston hosted by the Red Cross earlier this year
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The leader of Preston Council is urging colleagues to work to welcome refugees into the city with open arms.

Coun Peter Rankin has called for the council to back the establishment of Preston as a City of Sanctuary - building a culture of hospitality for people seeking help.

Preston was one of the first authorities in the north west to agree to accept refugees, and Coun Rankin is urging the council to do all it can to make newcomers welcome.

A notice of motion, to be debated on Thursday, said the council was proud of the city’s history of welcoming refugees, showing Prestonians “value the contribution those seeking sanctuary can make to our society”.

It said the council had last year agreed to play its part in the government programme to settle Syrian refugees into the UK, with five families now living in Preston.

It said: “Local people have set up a City of Sanctuary networking and coordinating group for those wishing to volunteer to support refugees and asylum seekers settling in Preston. Preston City of Sanctuary is part of a mainstream, grassroots movement building a culture of hospitality for people seeking sanctuary in the UK and Ireland.

“Their goal is to create a network of towns and cities throughout the country which are proud to be places of safety for people seeking sanctuary and helping them integrate into their local communities.”
In Lancashire there are already groups in Lancaster and Blackburn, with the organisation working as an umbrella group to build support networks from across community groups, and encourage relationships between local people and those seeking sanctuary.

The notice of motion said the council should take “practical steps” to make newcomers welcome.

They include expressing its support for setting up a City of Sanctuary, challenging discrimination and racism aimed at newcomers, and doing all it can as a council to offer a “positive vision of a culture of hospitality for those in need of safety”.

It also said the council would ensure officers liaised with the organisation on issues concerning refugees, and encourage others to work in partnership.