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Swindon City of Sanctuary welcomes Council decision to become a ‘Borough of Sanctuary’

The Trustees, staff and volunteers of local charity, Swindon City of Sanctuary, are delighted to learn of the recent decision by Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet to commit to the town becoming a Borough of Sanctuary.

This fantastic news endorses the main aim of Swindon City of Sanctuary (set up in 2016, and formally recognised as a charity in 2018), to create a welcoming, safe and inclusive town for all people in Swindon, whoever they are, wherever they are from and whatever the circumstances that have brought them here.

Swindon City of Sanctuary is a member of City of Sanctuary UK, a network of over 100 communities, villages, towns, cities and regions across the UK committed to supporting people who have been forced to flee their homes.

Before the local council elections in May this year, Swindon City of Sanctuary called on all parties contesting the election to publicly pledge their commitment to ensuring that Swindon becomes a place of sanctuary, inclusion and welcome.

On 20th September, the Cabinet’s momentous decision to commit to becoming a nationally recognised Borough of Sanctuary has provided the opportunity to bring together, acknowledge and celebrate the exceptional good practice and progress already in existence across the town to support and welcome people seeking sanctuary.

This includes work by charities like The Harbour Project, which directly aids people seeking sanctuary in Swindon; by organisations like Create Studios, Swindon’s award-winning film production company whose “partnership with Swindon Borough Council … enables communities and young people to grow civic pride and aspiration through the co-production of inspiring digital stories shared in public and cultural venues”; by schools like Peatmoor Primary School and Lawn Manor Academy, which both achieved their nationally accredited School of Sanctuary Awards in 2023 as a result of their good practice and progress in creating safe places of welcome and inclusion; and by many faith groups and individuals showing support, dignity and welcome to people with forced displacement backgrounds.

Ben Jackson, Chair of Trustees, Swindon City of Sanctuary said:

“People who come here seeking sanctuary are keen to play an active role in their new community and contribute their skills and experience to making life better for everyone in Swindon. The Council’s decision gives us a huge opportunity to transform the ways in which people coming to Swindon are welcomed and supported.”

Aderonke Akinyele, Swindon City of Sanctuary Project Coordinator added:

“Recent events celebrating welcome and inclusion, such as our successful Show Your Heart campaign at the end of 2021, and the official accreditation of two Schools of Sanctuary in 2023, have highlighted the actions of individuals and organisations to make Swindon a place of welcome, inclusion and safety.

“Along with Swindon City of Sanctuary’s successful volunteer-run We’re Open weekly café sessions on Thursday evenings and our new We’re Open Families fortnightly sessions on Thursday mornings at Swindon Central Library, these actions, which help people seeking sanctuary to settle into, belong to and contribute to their new community, now have a new significance with the groundbreaking commitment from the Council to transform how all people in Swindon can support and welcome those seeking sanctuary here.”

Swindon City of Sanctuary has already linked Swindon Borough Council with City of Sanctuary UK’s Local Authority Network, a movement of local councils who are working to create a culture of welcome, inclusion and empowerment for people seeking sanctuary.

Swindon City of Sanctuary looks forward to further collaboration with Swindon Borough Council to achieve their pledge to build solidarity, compassion, welcome and inclusion within their work, and to support them as they work through the formal process towards gaining the nationally accredited Borough of Sanctuary Award.