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Below are some answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Swansea City of Sanctuary. Please feel free to get in touch with us if you have further questions or concerns.

Q. What does ‘sanctuary’ mean?

‘Sanctuary’ refers to a place of refuge or safety, often provided to individuals who are fleeing persecution, violence, or other forms of harm in their home countries. It can also denote a supportive and welcoming environment where people feel secure and protected.

In the context of the City of Sanctuary network, ‘sanctuary’ extends beyond physical refuge to encompass emotional and social support for refugees and asylum seekers. It involves creating a community that embraces diversity, fosters inclusion, and respects the rights and dignity of all individuals, regardless of their background or circumstances.

Sanctuary can also imply a commitment to upholding humanitarian values and advocating for the rights of marginalised or vulnerable populations, including asylum seekers and refugees. It emphasises the importance of solidarity, empathy, and compassion in addressing the challenges faced by those forced to leave their homes in search of safety and stability.

Q. What is the difference between the terms ‘migrant’, ‘asylum seeker’, and ‘refugee’?

In the media especially, you often hear the terms ‘migrant’, ‘refugee’ and ‘asylum seeker’ used interchangeably. They do not have the same meaning.

There is currently no internationally accepted legal definition of a migrant. Typically, a migrant is a person who has moved to another country, for example to work, study or join family members. They may be living there temporarily or permanently depending on their situation.

The definition of an asylum seeker, or someone seeking asylum, is a person who has left their country, often suddenly, because they are faced with persecution, war or violence, and cannot get protection there.

Once an asylum seeker has been officially granted asylum, they are then legally recognised as a refugee.

We prefer to use the term ‘people seeking sanctuary’ to refer to refugees or asylum seekers from any background or migration status.

Q. Does SCoS provide practical support?

While SCoS does not provide frontline support to new arrivals in need, we do engage with, collaborate and support organisations in Swansea that do. Our organisation’s existence is routed in the local network supporting people seeking sanctuary.

SCoS was founded in 2010, and many of our founders were also involved in the set up of Swansea Asylum Seekers Support, which still provides regular drop-ins to support people living locally. We have also led projects which have developed and flourished into larger projects elsewhere, such as the Better Welcome to Swansea project now run by SCVS, and the Share Tawe project now run by EYST – both of which provide practical support to people seeking sanctuary. 

Q. Is SCoS encouraging more asylum seekers to come to Swansea?

This is not within our control. Most asylum seekers don’t have any choice about where they have to live. Under the national dispersal system, they have to move to whichever area of the country the Home Office sends them if they are to receive accommodation and support. This means many asylum seekers move to Swansea without any knowledge of the city, or any contacts with people who live here. 

Q. What about other groups who face discrimination?

We are committed to promoting inclusion, understanding, and support for all – including but not limited to refugees and asylum seekers. While our primary focus is on providing support to those seeking sanctuary, we recognise the interconnectedness of various forms of discrimination and oppression. SCoS strives to create a welcoming and inclusive community where everyone feels valued and respected, regardless of their background, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. We believe in standing in solidarity with all marginalised groups and working collaboratively to address systemic injustices and promote equality for all.

Given the current hostile environment towards refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, it is particularly crucial to raise awareness and build a culture of welcome. Negative stereotypes and misinformation can exacerbate social exclusion and prejudice, making it even more challenging for vulnerable individuals to access essential services and support.

Q. If our group makes a pledge of support, what are we committing ourselves to in practice?

There is no standard list of requirements for supporting organisations, because what is possible will depend upon the type of organisation involved. The pledge includes a commitment to welcoming people seeking sanctuary, and including them to the fullest possible extent in your organisation’s activities, subject to any limitations that may apply with respect to any limitations that may apply with respect to funding or other official requirements. Some of the initiatives taken by our supporting organisations so far include:

  • Befriending
  • Invitations to social events
  • Advertising services and activities to refugee communities
  • Setting up volunteer placements
  • Providing meeting space
  • Publicising refugee events
  • Offering short or long term accommodation
  • Appointing refugees onto committees

This commitment is similar to other equal opportunities and anti-discriminatory policies, in seeking to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees will not be discriminated against either actively or by omission. There might be many ways that this can be put into practice within your own organisation, and we are available to work with you in exploring possibilities for including refugees and asylum-seekers more fully in your activities.