City of Sanctuary 2012 goal
Calls for London to become the first Olympic City of Sanctuary have been backed by Walthamstow's MP, Neil Gerrard.
The movement, which began in 2005, aims to foster a culture of hospitality for refugees and asylum-seekers coming to the UK.
The group in London have been inspired by the example set by Sheffield which declared itself the UK's first City of Sanctuary by successfully recruiting hundreds of city organisation and local groups to commit to becoming more friendly and welcoming to people fleeing persecution.
As Chair for the All Party Parliamentary group on Refugees, Gerrard said he had given the group his full support because he'd seen first hand how refugees and migrants enriched local communities but sometimes a culture of mistrust of newcomers still pervaded.
Neil Gerrrard, MP backs the movement
"In Waltham Forest refugee communities coming here can end up feeling quite isolated because they don't have much contact with the local people. To improve community cohesion and relations people need to get to know the people living in the same area and that's what this initiative is all about."
The London group's spokesperson, Alexandra Feachem, said: "We've seen what's happened in Sheffield and other cities, and thought we must do something similar here.
"This city's prosperity and vitality has been built by refugees and other migrant communities, but in London, as elsewhere, newly arrived refugees still often feel excluded and marginalised.
"We don't believe most Londoners want that to happen, so a strong City of Sanctuary movement would send out a powerful signal that London welcomes refugees, it is proud of them and it wants them to be a full part of our community.
"When we won the Olympics, the organisers made much of London as the most diverse city in the world.
"Our ambition is to see thousands of London organisations, from top businesses, football clubs and cultural institutions, to community groups and residents associations, all pledging their support for declaring London as an Olympic City of Sanctuary. Then, for the Mayor and the GLA to take up the idea, so that by 2012 we see refugees at the heart of the Olympic Celebrations."
London should become the first ever Olympic City of Sanctuary
The City of Sanctuary movement is non-political, grassroots movement, but has backing from leading refugee agencies in the UK, including Refugee Council and Refugee Action.
The Refugee Council Chief Executive, Donna Covey said: "The Refugee Council has been helping to promote the City of Sanctuary movement around the UK and it is great to see a group starting up in London.
"In recent years, refugees have been relentlessly stigmatised in some sections of the media and this has given the impression, in London as elsewhere, that most British people are hostile to refugees. That is very sad, as London is a great city, and this is a great country, in large part because it has welcomed people fleeing persecution over many centuries.
"Declaring London as the first ever Olympic City of Sanctuary would be a great way for this country to restate its commitment to refugees."
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last updated: 14/11/2008 at 17:53