Today marks ten years since Bristol officially launched as a City of Sanctuary. In those ten years, people from across the city have worked hard to make Bristol a place of welcome, safety and hope for those fleeing war, persecution, violence and the impact of the climate crisis. Despite all that has been achieved, there is still work to do; the need for sanctuary has never been more prevalent against the backdrop of the Hostile Environment.
On the 22nd of June 2011, hundreds of people gathered at College Green to celebrate the launch of Bristol as a City of Sanctuary. A sea of blue umbrellas were held aloft to symbolise shelter, and messages of welcome strung up on a colourful dome. It was a celebration for Bristol, bringing people together from across the city and its diverse communities to champion sanctuary.
In the years since, the organisation that started as a grassroots movement has become a recognised charity, working with local individuals, organisations, businesses, schools and Bristol City Council to ensure that Bristol lives up to its title as a City of Sanctuary. It is part of a wider network of groups across the UK and Ireland; there are now over 100 sanctuary groups of differing sizes, ranging in boroughs, towns and cities across the lands. In a decade where an anti-migration rhetoric has been embedded within policy and some factions of the media, the movement to foster an alternative, welcoming environment has grown stronger.
In the lead up to the anniversary, Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said “Bristol is proud to be called a City of Sanctuary and to be home to residents speaking almost 100 languages. I am delighted that, through the collaborative approach of the Council and city partners, especially the refugee sector, positive changes are already being seen.
Working together within and beyond the Council we will continue to live up to our designation as a City of Sanctuary and support people to rebuild their lives and to fulfil their potential. The 10th anniversary inspires us to do more and build a city of welcome, safety and hope for all.”
Reflecting on the past decade, Forward Maisokwadzo, former Manager of Bristol City of Sanctuary who has been with the movement from the very beginning, said “The 10th Anniversary is a milestone which should inspire us all across our diverse communities and all sectors who share the City of Sanctuary vision to come together to ‘heal, learn and shine’. The foundation has been set to make Bristol a real place of welcome and safety for all. I’m excited about the future.”
Anna Wardell, Interim Manager of Bristol City of Sanctuary, celebrated the people involved with creating and continuing the movement. “We would not be a City of Sanctuary without the people; without the incredible individuals working tirelessly to create a community which recognises the right to seek asylum, to foster a culture which recognises the gifts that we all have to offer this city. We are all human, and we want to celebrate our shared humanity.”
Over the next month, we will be hosting a series of events and campaigns to celebrate the last ten years as they look forward to the future. Keep an eye on our website and social media to find out more.