These are some answers to common questions about Swansea City of Sanctuary. Please feel free to get in touch with us if you have further questions or concerns.
Do you want to encourage more asylum-seekers to come to Swansea?
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 wants them to, 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. We are simply calling for the asylum-seekers who are sent here to be welcomed and treated with understanding and respect, in a way that our city can be proud of.
Why are you asking organisations to welcome only asylum-seekers and refugees? What about other groups who face discrimination? Surely we should be equally welcoming to all.
While there are many other groups which are discriminated against, asylum-seekers are currently in the unique position of being publicly scapegoated, and at the same time systematically and officially deprived of basic human rights through arbitrary detention, destitution, refusal of medical treatment etc. As those groups which are opposed to this persecution are clearly in a minority, it is important for them to actively voice their opposition in order to try to influence others. It is true that in a society which fully respected human rights it would be unnecessary to single out asylum-seekers for public support. Unfortunately as we do not live in such a society, for any organisation’s commitment to anti-racism and equal opportunities to be meaningful it should be quite explicit in its defense of people who are being specifically targeted for State and public persecution.
If we display a sign that says ‘We welcome asylum-seekers and refugees’ won’t they come to us asking for money, accommodation or other help that we can’t provide?
The City of Sanctuary ‘Welcome’ sign is intended for display by local organisations which support the aim of making Swansea a place of safety and hospitality for asylum-seekers and refugees. It is a way of letting asylum-seekers know that they will be made welcome and included in all the usual activities of the organisation, in a society where they receive many messages that they are not welcome. It is also a way for the organisation to make a public statement of solidarity with asylum-seekers and refugees, and to oppose widespread discrimination against them. The sign is not meant to advertise specific refugee advice or support services. If asylum-seekers or refugees do ask for this kind of help, they can be referred to other local agencies – we can provide a list of contact details for these on request.
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 including asylum-seekers and refugees in the full range of usual activities for your organisation, wherever possible given the limitations that sometimes apply in funding or other official requirements. Some of the initiatives taken by our supporting organisations so far include:
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.