Preston’s City of Sanctuary to launch

Photo Neil Cross The Red Cross holding a Refugee event in Preston last year
Photo Neil Cross The Red Cross holding a Refugee event in Preston last year
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Refugees and families seeking help are to be welcomed into Preston with open arms, as it becomes a City of Sanctuary.

The movement is to launch in Preston later this month, and will act as a “networking and co-ordinating body” for volunteers who want to support refugees and asylum seekers settling in Preston.

The beginning of the project will coincide with the opening of an interactive exhibition at Preston Minster called Escape to Safety, highlighting the refugee experience.

Leader of Preston Council Peter Rankin, who will be chairing the launch event, said: “This independent group has been meeting regularly since November with the intention of making it as easy as possible for refugees to learn English, get employment and become integrated into Preston’s diverse community.

“Many of us are proud of Preston’s history down the centuries of welcoming refugees and others fleeing persecution, war and natural disasters and value the contribution those seeking sanctuary have made, and will continue to make, to our society.”

Coun Rankin said he had declared his interest in the City of Sanctuary to the council, and didn’t take part in the authority’s decision to endorse the project at a meeting earlier this month.

The City of Sanctuary group is supported by the Preston Faith Forum, local churches and local mosques.

The launch event, on February 27, will be opened by Mayor of Preston Coun John Collins.

Escape to Safety will run from the following day until March 5, and will be a free journey taking 15 minutes.

Once participants have negotiated their way past border guards, they will listen to three refugee voices on a soundtrack as they travel through eight small rooms which represent different stages on their journey to seek asylum in the UK.

Gisela Renolds, the exhibition designer from the charity Global Link, said: “Everyone has an opinion about refugees and asylum seekers.

“This exhibition gives people the chance to make it an informed opinion.”

Escape to Safety was created in 1999 and has toured hundreds of schools across the UK.

It will make a rare appearance to the public in Preston, thanks to Awards for All Lottery funding.