Wandsworth welcoming refugees through Sanctuary – action needed from all political parties

30th Mar 2022

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Millions of people are forcibly displaced globally by persecution, conflict, violence and human rights abuses. Wandsworth has a proud history of welcoming asylum seekers and refugees, often under government schemes.[1] The  outpouring of support for those fleeing Afghanistan and Ukraine shows that residents expect their Council to provide refuge.  We are a diverse borough; one-third of residents arrived in the country after 1961 and have built a rich cultural heritage here.[2] Together with community organisations, local authorities can strengthen inclusion and Sanctuary.

The refugee organisations in Wandsworth support Borough of Sanctuary initiatives of Councils around the UK,[3] and we ask that our Council:

Develop policies and embed actions

  • Appoint at least one Councillor and one Council Officer with special responsibility to support Sanctuary initiatives and work towards establishing Wandsworth as a Borough of Sanctuary
  • Develop policies and strategies in association with local refugee organisations and those with lived experience for rapid integration of refugees and asylum seekers in schools, employment and language training, and connections to health, mental health and other therapeutic services
  • Support and encourage facilities where refugees can meet and connect to community groups that bring people together through food, sports, arts and theatre, and places to build fellowship and understanding
  • Promote common understanding through activities and publications that celebrate diversity and show positive and welcoming images of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants
  • Support asylum seekers and refugees[4] who have No Recourse to Public Funds by improving available financial assistance and facilitating access to legal advice
  • Work with local refugee support organisations and those with lived experience to continue to evolve best practice; regularly review and publish developments and impacts

Provide sanctuary and housing

  • Expand links with private landlords to create a pool of accommodation to meet refugee needs and communicate that refugees are not ‘taking homes’ from local people
  • Keep the single-person Council Tax discount for one-person households who offer a home to refugees
  • Expand social housing in Wandsworth; for example through the Mayor of London’s scheme to increase social housing for local residents, some refugee allocation, and care leavers
  • Commit to housing refugees without setting maximum numbers and work with organisations to expand government funding for refugees and asylum seekers
  • Recognise that all communities must have their needs and concerns addressed and maintain a parity for refugees and poor or destitute residents on the housing waiting list[5] and in need of quality housing

Support children in care

  • Support unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) in their needs for care, accommodation, foster homes, mental health needs, living allowances, advice and support, and skilled interpreters with specialist understanding of child and adolescent refuge trauma
  • Pledge to provide informed support to looked after refugee children for their legal needs on immigration status and citizenship, and with a transition pathway to adult services, as offered to other care-leavers.[6]

Signed

Battersea Welcomes Refugees

Community Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (CARAS)

Katherine Low Settlement

Just Shelter

Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees

 

Footnotes

[1] Currently: Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP); Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS); Vulnerable Person’s and Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement schemes; Community Sponsorship; Homes for Ukraine; Refugee Resettlement Policy Guidance.

[2] 2011 Census data.

[3] For example see Lewisham Council Sanctuary Strategy and City of Sanctuary case studies

[4] Asylum seekers, and many refugees with leave to remain, are subject to NRPF conditions; see submission to parliament.

[5] Over 10,000 households in Wandsworth are waiting for social housing. Almost 2,000 are homeless.

[6] See Taking Care, SLRA and Thomas Coram Report shows early Council action saves money and sets out a pledge to care leavers.

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