Wandsworth is officially a Borough of Sanctuary

Published: Friday, May 31, 2024

  • Accreditation awarded by City of Sanctuary UK after collaborative work with refugee and asylum-seeking supportive organisations
  • Funded by a £200,000 Sanctuary Community Fund set up by Wandsworth Council
  • Wandsworth has welcomed over 1,000 Ukrainian refugees, the second most in London

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Wandsworth Council is proud to announce that it has been awarded Borough of Sanctuary status by City of Sanctuary UK

The accreditation recognises the work Wandsworth has done to date, including developing the Wandsworth Sanctuary Strategy, and a commitment made to welcome, support, and empower sanctuary seekers living in the borough.  

Cabinet Member for Business, Voluntary Sector and Culture, Kemi Akinola, said: “I’m incredibly proud that the compassionate and collaborative approach of our administration is making a difference, and that this has been recognised by City of Sanctuary UK.  

“Wandsworth is a welcoming place for people seeking asylum and refugees - and this accreditation is recognition that the residents of Wandsworth, alongside Wandsworth Council, have welcomed those seeking sanctuary with open arms.” 

“This is another example of Wandsworth becoming a fairer, more compassionate borough for everyone.” 

A £200,000 Sanctuary Community Fund has been set up to provide grants of up to £10,000 to voluntary and community sector organisations for support with community integration, expanding organisational capacity, and celebrating the role of refugees and asylum seekers in the borough. 

The Council has expanded the resources it directs towards refugees, including having 21 dedicated workers who speak over 15 different languages in a newly formed Refugee Services Team to ensure the needs of refugees are met and sufficient support is in place for when they arrive.  

Wandsworth has welcomed over 1,000 Ukrainian refugees, the second most of any London borough, and fifth most of any English unitary local authority. 

Wandsworth Council’s Refugees Champion, Councillor Sarmila Varatharaj, said: “This accreditation is a major recognition of the work Wandsworth has done to date and what more we plan to do, because Wandsworth is a place that is safe and is welcoming to everyone.  

“It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you’re coming from. You do have a place here in Wandsworth that you can call a home.” 

Through the Wandsworth Migration Forum, which has brought together key organisations, including the NHS, JobCentre Plus and local voluntary sector groups, the Council has been able to best understand what the voluntary sector and those seeking sanctuary need directly from them.  

Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees, a local voluntary group affiliated to City of Sanctuary, said: “We are impressed with the changes in the Council that really could help meet the needs of those who come here fleeing violence and persecution.  

“We believe the new teams and services will benefit the whole Borough through the commitment to growing safe and welcoming communities. Wandsworth has always prided itself on being a welcoming Borough, and the work in the last two years means this will be more than just a slogan. 

“After making a pledge to become a Borough of Sanctuary less than two years ago, we can see the Council listened to the voices of lived experience, and with this accreditation, we’re keen to see what comes next”.