International Migrants Day: Birmingham’s continuing commitment as a City of Sanctuary

Ahead of International Migrants Day on 18 December, Cllr John Cotton looks at how Birmingham continues to honour its commitments as a City of Sanctuary.

International Migrants Day will be marked around the world on Sunday, to celebrate migration and how migrants have helped to build and shape our world.

Birmingham is a city that has been built on migration and our diversity is our greatest strength.  It is the bedrock of our thriving businesses, and our flourishing arts, culture and sports.  Their journeys, their contribution and their stories are an integral part of Birmingham’s rich history and exciting future.

This is why our status as a City of Sanctuary is so important. Birmingham has long been known for its warm welcome, and for being a place where people can seek refuge and build new lives free from war and persecution.

Last month, Birmingham City Council was awarded official status as a Local Authority of Sanctuary, and we are committed to living up to this accolade. We will strive to ensure that migrants to Birmingham are welcomed and supported to become active and fulfilled citizens – and our Refugees and Migration team runs various projects to meet these aims.

Since the war began in Ukraine earlier this year we have welcomed people to Birmingham through the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme, along with arrivals under the Afghan resettlement scheme, and other migrants who arrive  fleeing war, violence, and persecution. To support people  find information and services, and to learn English, two important websites were launched this year - the Migrant Advice Portal and the ESOL Hub.

Earlier this month (12 December), a group of migrants enjoyed a guided tour of the Council House, hearing about the architecture, paintings and role of the Council Chamber. This was part of the MILE Project – which is an EU funded programme supporting migrant engagement in local democracy – and their experience on the tour has ignited their enthusiasm  to become active citizens.

Birmingham City Council also supports the Lift the Ban Campaign, calling for the right to work for people who have sought asylum in the UK, many of whom have valuable skills and experience that they want to use. To get involved now, download the campaign’s High Street Challenge Handbook to help bring businesses on board.

Last week, the City Council also backed my call for cross party support to  sign the Fight the Anti-Refugee Laws’ pledge.

In passing this motion we became the first council in the UK to sign the that pledge and defend migrants’ rights to seek safety from war and persecution in the UK – which I think further strengthens our commitment as City of Sanctuary.

If you wish to join in celebrating International Migrants Day, the UN’s International Organisation for Migration and IMIX UK have collaborated on a week of action on 12-18 December

Join in by sharing positive messages on Twitter using hashtags #ItTakesACommunity #Migrants Day and tagging @IOM_UK @IMIX_UK @UNMigration. Social media resources are available online  support you. Get tweeting, and Happy International Migrants Day.

Cllr John Cotton is Cabinet Member for Social Justice, Community Safety and Equalities.


This post was published on 16 December 2022

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