Newcastle City Council has pledged to join the fight against the government’s cruel refugee policies. On 1 March, Newcastle City Council passed a unanimous motion to take action against the government’s ‘anti-refugee’ laws and to defend the right to seek safety in the UK.
The motion was put forward by Councillor Lesley Storey, who used her speech to read statements from people seeking asylum in Newcastle. Members of the West End Refugee Service Community Campaigns Group, who had worked with Cllr Storey on the motion, were welcomed to the Council Meeting to witness the motion passing.
The ‘anti-refugee laws’ include the UK-Rwanda agreement and the recent Nationality and Borders Act, which punishes refugees for seeking safety and paves the way for the creation of warehouse-style accommodation centres on UK soil.
Newcastle City Council will now join Birmingham City Council, dozens of cross-party MPs and over 400 organisations in signing a national pledge to defend the right to seek safety from war and persecution in the UK. A number of local organisations, including the West End Refugee Service and Action Foundation, have also signed the pledge.
The Council will call on the government to abandon the UK-Rwanda agreement and build a refugee protection system that treats all people with dignity and compassion, and will work with local groups to find ways to support refugees who are affected by the laws.
Councillor Lesley Storey, Cabinet Member for Vibrant City at Newcastle City Council, said:
“As a City of Sanctuary, Newcastle has a proud record of helping people to a fresh start in our city where they are supported to live long, happy lives.
We should be creating a better and more inclusive refugee system, not making it harder for people to flee warzones and persecution. The Rwanda agreement and the Nationality and Borders Acts completely contradict our belief that people seeking asylum in our country should be treated with dignity and compassion, regardless of the journey they’ve taken to get here.”
Groups working together to defend the right to seek safety
People seeking asylum in Newcastle have welcomed the council’s commitment to defend the right to seek safety.
Sadia, an artist and campaigner with the WERS Community Campaign Group, said:
“It is important that the leaders of Newcastle City Council are standing up for people seeking asylum. Currently many people seeking asylum are facing severe problems and the Home Office does not provide people with the basic necessities to rebuild their lives. The council taking this stance is an important step forward”.
David Archibald , Chair of the Justice and Peace Refugee Project Steering Group, said:
“For over 20 years the Justice and Peace Refugee Project , founded through the inspirational work of the late John Marshall, a long serving city councillor and former Lord Mayor of Newcastle, has welcomed and supported those seeking asylum in our city . The need is greater than ever. On behalf of our project , I fully endorse the city council’s motion to defend the right to seek sanctuary, to build a fair and workable asylum system and welcome refugees into our city with dignity and compassion.”
Jason Hussein, Head of Advocacy and Support at the West End Refugee Service, said:
“A motion defending the right to seek sanctuary is a welcome step in the face of current inhumane and anti-refugee government legislation and rhetoric. Newcastle has always been a welcoming place and this motion will bolster the important work that is being carried out at a local level to raise awareness of an unprecedented backlog of cases, reinforce the de facto ban on working, and shine a light on the living conditions of those in asylum accommodation.”
Bushee, a campaigner with the WERS Group, said:
“We thank councillors and Newcastle Council for standing with people seeking asylum. The great communities are built on sympathy, but the noble one gives you hope.”
Emily Malcolm, Head of Client Services at Action Foundation, said:
“Since the passing of the Nationality and Borders Act we are seeing a marked increase in the volume of legislation targeting our clients and although the fight to challenge these policies goes on, the national picture looks to worsen over the coming years. We therefore welcome this move by Newcastle City Council to build a refugee protection system that treats all people with dignity and compassion.”
Dr Mohamed Nasreldin, Director of the North of England Refugee Service, said:
“We welcome the Newcastle City Council taking this very important motion for debate at its meeting, we welcome the Councils commitment in making our City a Safe City for those seeking Sanctuary fleeing persecution, violence, and war! It is vital and important that the Council Leadership are supporting people seeking asylum, we thank the Council for taking this important stance voicing the concerns of those seeking sanctuary, this is a positive step forward in ensuring a better and more inclusive refugee and asylum system”.
This article is based on a press release from Asylum Matters