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More about our story…

We joined the City of Sanctuary movement in 2017.

Since 2015, grassroots group Hastings Supports Refugees had been sending help to thousands of people seeking refuge in France and Greece and was both impetus for and foundation of our becoming a City of Sanctuary. We wanted to expand awareness and support where it was needed, both at home in our town and abroad.

We are building upon existing initiatives, including the Links project which has for many years been helping refugees and those applying for asylum in our town, and developing new ones.  In Summer 2017, The Refugee Buddy Project: Hastings, Rother and Wealden was set up to welcome into the community Syrian families arriving through the Syrian Resettlement Programme. This project has become a thriving and multifaceted source of strong, practical and communal support for those families, and in September 2020, achieved charitable status.

From Autumn 2017 until Summer 2018, we ran Hastings Debates, a series of public talks about ways in which we can understand people’s need for refuge, and the policies being enacted, with international speakers including war correspondents, authors, artists, film makers.  We have maintained since then a constant presence in our local media with comment and reportage on many topics around the issues involved and on what we are doing on the ground to tackle these. This includes keeping active contact with our Parliamentary representative, and active campaigning at local and national level.  From 2018-2022 we campaigned actively on the right to work of people seeking asylum, as part of the national Lift the Ban coalition: on immigration detention including Napier Barracks:  and, as a member of the national Together with Refugees coalition,  on the Nationality and Borders Bill (passed into law in May 2022 and now an Act of Parliament) – more detail here.

In Refugee Week in June we hold our annual festival. Launched in 2017 as ‘Festival by the Lake‘, it has rapidly expanded to attendances in 2018 and 2019 of over 1000 people, followed by an online Festival during lockdown in 2020. The festival resumed in 2021, with a new name – Sanctuary Festival. The Festival offers a day of community and celebration of our town as a welcoming place for those seeking sanctuary with us.

For all refugees who arrive here we are committed to making ours a place where they may thrive and build relationships with the local communities.