On Wednesday 31st October 2012, Ipswich Borough Council passed a resolution of support towards Ipswich becoming a “Town of Sanctuary”.

Since then, the movement, Ipswich Town of Sanctuary has been looking at how it can work collaboratively with the Council to actively welcome, include and raise awareness about sanctuary seekers in Ipswich.

The City of Sanctuary movement encourages communities to take pride in offering a place of safety for people whose lives are threatened and celebrating their contribution to towns and cities. (The focus is on those people who are forced to seek sanctuary rather than voluntary migration or diversity in general. At the same time we intend that the process of working for a culture of hospitality will also benefit other migrant groups, as well as host communities).

Discussions with Cllr Adam Leeder on how to meet point 3 of the resolution (IBC will within current resources work with its staff to ensure that they understand the needs of those seeking sanctuary and are able to challenge misinformation in the wider community), led to the idea of holding workshops for Councillors and Officers.

Although Ipswich Town of Sanctuary has a different focus to that of Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality and the Strategic Migration Partnership, we held a meeting in January 2014 to discuss what information Ipswich Borough Council staff would have perhaps found most beneficial before the upcoming European elections where there may have been plenty of rhetoric and incorrect information being put out by some people. Our goal was to arm staff with knowledge about wider issues surrounding immigration so that they felt empowered and able to counteract negative views by having the correct facts/figures to hand. We therefore felt that the following topics might be useful:

High Skilled Migrants
Spousal Visas and No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF)
Asylum Seekers and Refugees
European Economic Area (EEA)

Unfortunately, the workshops could not be delivered before the European elections but on Thursday 3rd and Thursday 17th July 2014, representatives from Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality, the Strategic Migration Partnership and Suffolk Refugee Support delivered workshops on the topics above. Some of the feedback from Councillors and Officers is below:

High Skilled Migrants: “The breakdown of jobs across Suffolk was interesting” and “Interesting to find out the income levels of these people”.

Spousal Visas and No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF): “Some surprising information”.

Asylum Seekers and Refugees: “Very insightful to understand route from Asylum Seeker to Refugee”.

European Economic Area (EEA): “Facts and figures definitely challenged assumptions”.

Following on from the workshops in 2014, Ipswich Town of Sanctuary is pleased to hear that the Strategic Migration Partnership has secured European Funding to continue to deliver the workshops alongside Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality and Suffolk Refugee Support. Their next joint presentation will be at UCS.