New Sanctuary Strategy announced for Refugee Week

Published: Monday, June 19, 2023

  • Wandsworth Council strengthens commitment to supporting refugees and asylum seekers
  • Proposed new Sanctuary Strategy will be discussed by councillors
  • Builds on extensive existing work to welcome, support and celebrate refugees

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This Refugee Week, Wandsworth Council has strengthened its commitment to provide robust and comprehensive support to refugees and asylum seekers.

One year after Wandsworth announced it was seeking formal Borough of Sanctuary status, the council is introducing a new Sanctuary Strategy and a £1.75m Borough of Sanctuary funding pot.

The three-year Strategy was created in collaboration with refugees, asylum seekers and local groups, and outlines an approach that is welcoming, universal, clear, collaborative and accessible.

Actions will include:

  • Supporting asylum seekers to access housing
  • Encouraging local GPs to sign up for the Safe Surgeries initiative
  • Greater support for families with children and unaccompanied children
  • Dedicated employment and skills events
  • Closer working with the voluntary sector
  • Training for council staff so they can provide better support

The new Borough of Sanctuary Fund will be at no cost to council tax payers, as it uses money from government funding.

The new strategy builds on extensive existing work, including the Borough of Sanctuary Community Fund which funds community projects.

With support from the council, Wandsworth families have housed more than 750 Ukrainians forced to flee their war-torn homeland – the second highest number among London boroughs. Wandsworth also supports refugees from Syria and Afghanistan.

Working closely with local organisations, the council supports sanctuary seekers to find jobs and skills, including learning English; to apply for school places for their children; and to benefit from schemes such as free school uniforms, free school meals and free holiday activities.

Sanctuary seekers will be eligible for the free gym and swim scheme starting in late July, and have been given free tickets to events such as the Wandsworth Arts Fringe and the Battersea Park fireworks.

And throughout Refugee Week, Wandsworth will be using its social media accounts to spotlight support and celebrations from the council and local community groups.

Sarmila Varatharaj is Wandsworth’s Refugee Champion, leading the council’s work and advocating for their rights. She is attending a reception for Syrian and Afghan families on Monday night hosted by the Mayor of Wandsworth in the Mayor’s Parlour.

Councillor Varatharaj said: “We have a long and proud history of welcoming people in need, from Huguenots to Ukrainians, but we can and must do more.

“We know that if we work closely with Wandsworth residents and community organisations we can achieve so much together. We are determined to provide a warm welcome and practical support so that everyone seeking refuge in our borough can call it their home.”

Read the draft strategy