Seeking Sanctuary – problem on our doorstep being ignored.

Seeking Sanctuary website

About ‘Seeking Sanctuary’. There are currently well over 6000 migrants in Calais (November 2015) and more nearby.  ‘Seeking Sanctuary’ aims to raise awareness about this situation and is organising basic humanitarian assistance through Faith Communities and Community Organisations in partnership with experienced aid agencies such as ‘Secours Catholique’.

This is an appropriate season to offer thanks for all the heartening messages that we receive and which help to sustain us in our continued efforts to share news about the plight of the people who have been left to rot in the mud and gales at the edge of Calais. Several messages describe visits to Calais and the scenes that greet visitors: those received since early November have been added or linked to our website and we trust that you will find them informative.

Remarkable stories of goodwill emerge, despite the desperate state of the Calais “Jungle”; the residents continue to exhibit great resilience in the face of misfortune and scores of volunteers are on the ground to help them throughout each week with hundreds more turning up at weekends. Bearing this in mind, we take this opportunity of expressing the hope that all our readers experience peace and joy during the Christmas season of goodwill.

Phil & Ben

For further information on how you or your organisation can help,  contact Ben Bano on 07887 651117 or Phil Kerton on 01474 873802.  To check the latest news, visit our website on

Gifts For Calais

BRWR thanks everyone who contributed to the vanload of clean warm clothes, sleeping bags and other items, which were sent down to Calaid’s new warehouse facility at Feltham last month.  We can still accept items like sleeping bags and men’s waterproof clothing and trainers , which are needed in the Calais camps, but suggest that other good clothing be kept at home until our refugee families arrive next year. Contact to give.

If you wish to donate to Calais a very sensible way is to buy something from Calaid’s wish list on Amazon

The list includes much needed items such as wind up lanterns and radios and water carriers, which Amazon will deliver. Cash donations may also be made to Calaid via their website.

Update on Bromsgrove & Redditch Welcome Refugees.

Where are we now?  What is planned next?

Both Worcestershire County Council and Bromsgrove District Council have passed motions welcoming refugees. However they are both insisting on five years Central Government funding before actually accepting refugees. We do have several councillors, both district and county, actively concerned and working to ensure the councils fulfil their commitments.

We know funding has been promised for more than one year and we have now just heard that funding has been confirmed for five years.  The funding will gradually decrease over the five years as it is assumed the refugees will find work and become more self sufficient.

We understand the local councils will be informed when refugees are coming to our area and will be given two months’ notice

The BRWR committee has been studying what will be required when the refugees actually arrive in Bromsgrove. To assist us in this we are planning a visit to Coventry where 78 refugees have already been settled with a promise for another 100 in succeeding years. After this visit we then plan to meet Bromsgrove District Council CEO, Kevin Dicks and Chairperson, Margaret Sherrey, to discuss how BRWR can supplement and assist the local council in supporting and welcoming the refugees allocated to our area.

We have a list of 90 Bromsgrove people who are interested in helping along with details of how they believe they can help. When meeting the organisers in Coventry and our own council we need to ascertain what exactly will be the council’s responsibility and how they plan to fulfil it. Then we can arrange with the council how we can best help. We will need to consider such issues as safeguarding as the refugees will include children and vulnerable adults.

We have been offered lessons in Arabic for beginners and some of the committee are planning to take this up. Although it will be essential the refugees will learn English, knowing simple greetings along with simple questions and answers will be very useful. Please contact us for further details if you wish to join these classes.

Our next public meeting is on Wednesday February 17th at 8 pm at the Council Offices in Bromsgrove. Hopefully by then it will be confirmed when the first refugees will be arriving. We are considering asking one of the refugees already settled in Coventry to address us.  Professor Jenny Phillimore, Director of Institute for Research into Superdiversity at University of Birmingham has agreed to address us about Refugee Integration.

Jenny Phillimore has also informed us that she is about to run training sessions for volunteers and organisations working with refugees locally and she is working with Malvern Welcomes Syrian Refugees on a series of myth busting sessions with schools, businesses, churches and local authorities.. Any Bromsgrove people wishing to join please contact us.

.We were delighted that our member, Naeem Arif, was able to help organise the very successful joint Muslim and Christian interfaith service in St John’s Church on Sunday 22nd November in memorial to all those who died in the recent Paris terrorist attack. Bromsgrove showed itself as a compassionate tolerant town which we are sure will show the same qualities to those refugees who come here.

So things are progressing and we should soon be looking forward to welcoming these vulnerable refugees to our district. We will inform everyone and be calling on your help as soon as we have more definite information.

Help required: Does any person or organisation have access to a free meeting room we could use for committee meetings?

Where is integration in the refugee crisis?

Phillip Rapaport wrote:

This is the subject on which Professor Jenny Phillimore spoke at the City Of Sanctuary meeting I attended last in Birmingham. She spoke of the three stages of integration: Reception, Orientation and Social mobility, and how research shows that failure to properly engage with new arrivals can contribute to their ill health and failure to thrive and integrate. As we have discussed, one of the principal problems refugees have to be helped with is their profound sense of loss. Among the key ways to help newcomers integrate is help with language, advice about local rules and regulations, including such mundane matters as which colour bins to put out when, and how to recycle, and allowing them, if possible, to have some say in their accommodation. Age appropriate mentoring and buddying schemes are also helpful. Also, among a group of refugees are likely to be people who have specific skills and qualifications. Finding people in the community with similar skills and qualifications with whom newcomers can share their knowledge can contribute to a feeling of worth. I am more and more convinced that it will be necessary for us to access instruction in how to engage with people appropriately and with regard to their needs.

Bromsgrove Muslim Community Trust condemns Paris attacks and calls for unity and solidarity

(Copied from a Bromsgrove Standard publication, 14th November 2015, written by Tristan Harris)

BROMSGROVE Muslim Community Trust (BMCT) has condemned the actions of those who carried out the horrific attacks in Paris which have left almost 130 people dead.

French President Francois Hollande said last night’s shocking shootings, bomb blasts and a hostage siege, were organised by the Islamic State (IS).

Following the massacre and the claims about who was behind the attacks, members of the BMCT contacted The Standard.

A statement by chairman Dr Waqar Azmi said: “We are deeply shaken and appalled by the horrifying Paris attacks and our deepest condolences are with the family and friends of the victims, and the French nation.

“There is no justification for murder and those who commit acts of violence cannot do so in the name of any faith. Any such claim is manipulative and evil. Terrorism has no religion or moral standing.”

He urged people of all faiths and those with no faith to stand firm in unity and solidarity.

“We must not let these terrorists divide us, otherwise the terrorists will win.

“Let us not play into their divisive narrative, and instead show them that people of all faiths and none can live peacefully, together.

“Like the terrorists who want to divide communities, there will be some in the days ahead who will try to use this atrocity to attack innocent people.

“We equally reject their intentions.

“It is evil people who do evil things – such acts will only increase our resolve to remain united.”

Public Meeting Minutes 28th October 2015

St Peter’s Church Hall was full on Wednesday October 28th when more than 60 people attended the second meeting of the BRWR group to show their support. We were a diverse group of residents from local churches, schools, Muslim and Arabic communities, from all over Bromsgrove district, Northfield and Rubery. Several members came from the Equality and Diversity Forum.

A brief history of Syria was given by Janet King. Later 2 people with Syrian parents who had fled from the war there in the 1980s, explained a little more, and Hassam offered Arabic tuition and books. A young Christian Eritrean refugee who had travelled through Calais, described how he was now studying A levels and thanked us for his welcome here.

A website is in process of being designed by Peter Rendell and Dr.John Cochrane asked for help with publicity. The group has a constitution and a bank account for financial transparency.

Several people made themselves known with offers of help, whether it was teaching English, or befriending, donating furniture, bedding, etc. Storage of goods will be needed until BDHT could identify properties where refugees could live. It was suggested that the empty library building or council offices could be used for furniture storage. New Starts have offered the use of their van and driver to transport furniture, but are unable to store any for us.

The big question on everyone’s lips was, when is this going to happen – how soon can we welcome some of these very vulnerable people from the refugee camps and how many will the council agree to take? We understand that it is up to 12 or 15 families. Will they all arrive at once, or gradually? Many other authorities are making offers now also.

It was agreed that we would write to Bromsgrove District Council officers urging them to accept some refugees before the winter. The 1 year’s funding already agreed by the government is actually from the UNHCR and the Overseas Aid Budget which is only 0.7% of GMP. It was agreed that people would also write to their MP, Sajid Javid,  who so far had been very positive in his support for the scheme,  asking for him to put pressure on the government to agree to 5 years’ funding for the refugees. We understand that when the District Council is more certain of a government pledge, then they will progress the scheme. The refugees will not be barred from working to support themselves, unlike asylum seekers, so may become productive members of society within the five years. Coventry, has been brave enough to go ahead with accepting 78 refugees without this pledge of government money.

The meeting ended on an optimistic positive note. Any offers of help are to be given to

How Bromsgrove & Redditch Welcome Refugees began

Following the very welcome news from Bromsgrove District Council and Worcestershire County Council that refugees under the Vulnerable Person Relocation Scheme (VPRS) will be welcome in Bromsgrove, a group of us met in Bromsgrove on the 30th September to form a community group called ‘Bromsgrove & Redditch Welcome Refugees’.  The idea of this group is to give community support to our local district and county councils in this worthy, deserving cause.

The common feeling amongst this group is that we want to reach out and support the few thousand refugees who will be coming from refugee camps to the UK having fled such a devastating conflict, leaving behind nearly everything they owned.

Since the group’s formation, we held our first public meeting on Wednesday 28th October at the Community Centre, St Peter’s Church, Rock Hill.  More news about this to follow soon!