Dr Felicity Laurence, Chair of Hastings Community of Sanctuary
We have continued a busy, sometimes fairly hectic, programme of events and campaigning over the past few months. In November, we attended both the regional City of Sanctuary conference in London, and also the event ‘Sanctuary in Parliament’ in Parliament. Here, we spoke with our MP Amber Rudd about the campaign for people seeking asylum to be given the right to work, a campaign being run by Asylum Matters, the campaigning project hosted by the national City of Sanctuary. Currently Asylum Matters is campaigning on three issues: right to work, an end to indefinite detention and family reunion (you can read more here). While supporting all three, we are becoming deeply involved at local level in the first of these, the ‘Lift the Ban’ campaign (you can sign the petition here ).
In January, we attended a Lift the Ban coalition meeting held at Amnesty’s office in London and attended by around 100 people from across the country. We were invited to speak there about the local work we are doing on this campaign, and took part in a brief film subsequently circulated around the country. You can watch the film here.
We also became intensively involved, at short notice, in the campaign to save the English Additional Language Service (EALS) in our local schools (it having been announced that EALS would be withdrawn very shortly), joining with others in this to write to ESCC councillors and various media, to disseminate our arguments via social media, and otherwise to make representation on this matter, on behalf of the many families whose voices we felt were likely to go unheard. You can read more about our campaign here, and the eventual -and positive! – outcome here.
At a full meeting in January, we discussed our many plans for the coming months. See the Hastings & Rother Refugee Buddy Project Update, and the Hastings Supports Refugees Update, both pivotal projects within our Community of Sanctuary, for the many events planned within their respective groups. To these, we can add the piano recital by Margaret Fingerhut on Easter Sunday, April 21st at the Stables Theatre, to raise money for City of Sanctuary.
Further in the future are the now annual Festival by the Lake, this year being held at the end of Refugee Week on June 23rd, at Ashburnham Place; and the visit on July 10th of Refugee Tales, whose long walk this year culminates in Hastings. More information about both in due course!
And in October, we will be hosting the next Regional meeting of City of Sanctuary, for CoS groups from across the South East – an honour to which we are very much looking forward.
Meanwhile, we continue our campaigning and our collective actions for more equitable existences for those who seek refuge with us, in the close teamwork now firmly established within our constituent groups. Please do follow us on Twitter for regular updates, and get in touch if you would like to know more or become more involved in any way!