Birmingham councillors to walk the walk during Refugee Week

Published: Monday, 14th June 2021

Birmingham’s refugee community and their contributions to city life are to be celebrated with a festival taking place during Refugee Week, which begins today (14 June 2021).

As a City of Sanctuary, Birmingham offers a warm welcome to those who seek to make their home here – including refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, many fleeing persecution or war.

An arts and music festival, hosted by Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham, features a range of live and streamed events including a Birmingham Opera Company workshop, film screenings and performances by artists from Peru, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

The theme for Refugee Week 2021 is We Cannot Walk Alone, taken from Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, highlighting that even in tough times like the pandemic and lockdowns, our own wellbeing depends on the welfare, safety and hard work of others.

Cllr John Cotton, Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Community Safety and Equalities will be walking with people from refugee backgrounds who call Birmingham home.

Cllr Jayne Francis, Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Culture, Cllr Peter Fowler (Con, Harborne) and Cllr Roger Harmer (Lib Dem, Acocks Green) will also join him on this walk to hear their stories.

Cllr Cotton said: “The past year has been extremely difficult for everyone bringing unprecedented hardships. The pandemic also highlighted the inequalities present in our society, however, it also revealed how interdependent we are, and how our individual wellbeing depends on others.

“That’s why we as elected councillors who represent different parties, have joined up to take a shared walk with people who have lived experience of being a refugee. We are coming together to walk and talk with people we haven’t met before – and listen to their stories.

“We want to show our solidarity with those who have been forced to leave their homes but have found sanctuary in Brum. People who have brought skills, qualifications and expertise, and hopefully by us extending a hand of friendship, together we can build a better future for all.

“Birmingham is a proud and historic City of Sanctuary, and we are delighted to be joining the community organisations all over Birmingham who are coming together to take shared walks in solidarity with, and celebration of Refugee Week.”

The council’s Refugee and Migration Team provides a variety of services that support resettlement, training, education, and volunteering – with the aim of unlocking experience, skills and potential to enable people to become active citizens in the city.

The city council, along with Near Neighbours and Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham have co-ordinated a series of community engagement events that include walking to bring together people who would not normally meet, creating social bridges and celebrating Refugee Week.

These have been accompanied with virtual creative workshops provided by Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham, where local artists have inspired the groups to create art relevant to their walks, and have raised awareness about asylum and refugee issues such as Together with Refugees.

To join Birmingham’s Refugee Week festival, visit Celebrating Sanctuary’s website.

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