Hackney set to become a ‘Borough of Sanctuary’

Hackney Council will seek to establish Hackney as an official ‘Borough of Sanctuary’ for those fleeing violence and persecution in their own countries.

The City of Sanctuary movement is a national initiative to create a network of towns and cities throughout the UK that are proud to be places of safety and inclusion for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. 

Councillors backed the move at a meeting of Full Council  last night (Monday 24 July), following a motion proposed by Cllr Sophie Conway and seconded by Cllr Joe Walker.

Our community values compassion, diversity and inclusivity and will unite to protect the safety and wellbeing of all our fellow human beings. I am committed to championing migrant rights and wholeheartedly celebrate our borough’s diversity. This motion proposes to build on our strong track record of supporting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers here in Hackney.

Cllr Sophie Conway
Cllr Carole Williams, Cabinet Member for Employment, Human Resources and Equalities

As a borough we have long welcomed refugees and migrants, especially those fleeing conflict or harm in hope of a better life. I am proud that we are taking this important step to formalise our continued commitment to doing this by becoming a Borough of Sanctuary. 

This motion demonstrates the Council’s support for refugee and migrant communities in Hackney. We have long called for the end to the policies hostile to the protection of the most marginalised in our community. We will work with local organisations to provide the vital assistance these people need and advocate for their rights and challenge anti-refugee and anti-migrant attitudes wherever they emanate from.

Cllr Carole Williams, Cabinet Member for Employment, Human Resources and Equalities

Hackney - both as a Council and a place - has a long and proud history of welcoming everybody, regardless of their background, especially those fleeing conflict or harm in hope of a better life.

In recent years the Council and its residents have housed and helped hundreds of individuals and families, including those from Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine, who have fled some of the most devastating conflicts of our generation. 

The Council has been a leading force in the fight against the Government's ‘Hostile Environment’ policies, which deliberately makes life hard for refugees, asylum seekers and for those who cannot prove their right to remain in the UK. 

In August 2018, Hackney was the first council in the UK to pass a comprehensive motion regarding the Windrush generation. This committed to honouring the Windrush community and to lobbying for justice for those affected by the Windrush Scandal and calling for an end to the hostile environment policies

The Council has also been doing all it can to support people who are prohibited, by law, from accessing benefits including by extending eligibility for free school meals to include some children of those who have no recourse to public funds.

And, throughout the pandemic, the Council’s support services were open to anyone who needed them, no matter their immigration status. 

Just this year, the Council have gone above and beyond by creating a new service to deliver a safe and welcoming response to all displaced people; to ensure that Government schemes - such as Homes for Ukraine and Afghan Resettlement Schemes - are delivered properly and fairly; and to work closely with the community, organisations and partner bodies, such as the NHS, to support new arrivals. 

Now the Council will take its first formal steps to becoming a Borough of Sanctuary, pledging to continue to:

  • Celebrate the contribution of refugee and migrant communities to Hackney
  • Work with organisations in Hackney who support refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in the borough 
  • Challenge anti-refugee and anti-migrant attitudes 
  • Lobby the government to reform its migrant funding conditions 
  • Put pressure on the Government to reverse the Home Secretary’s plans to abandon key Commitments on the Windrush Compensation Scheme.

Hackney Migrant Centre welcomes Hackney Council’s decision to establish a ‘Borough of Sanctuary’ and its support for the rights of migrants and refugees. The hostile environment is becoming ever harsher towards people seeking safety in the UK. 

At Hackney Migrant Centre we see the results of these policies in the insecurity, destitution and homelessness endured by our visitors. The ‘Illegal Immigration’ Bill goes even further, removing the right to sanctuary for people fleeing persecution – contrary to international law.

We are heartened that our local council has committed itself to opposing these punitive measures and proud that Hackney continues to welcome refugees and migrants.

Hannah McConnachie, Chair of Trustees, Hackney Migrant Centre