York: City of Sanctuary?

At a time when, arguably, the western world faces its greatest humanitarian challenge since the end of the Second World War, it seems strange that the York “City of Sanctuary” organisation launched in 2011 seems to have stalled.

A voluntary organisation set up a web site (click) but it has not been updated for over 6 months.  


In the main the movement was originally intended to provide welcome and support in the City for refugees. It attracted support from a wide range of organisations including many Churches.

The “City of Sanctuary” title was a little awkward confusing the historic right of sanctuary in churches, which could and was exploited by criminals, with a more modern humanitarian ideal

It courted controversy in October 2011 when some Labour Councillors tried to hijack the idea to promote their own – political – agenda but, having got a press by line, they rapidly retreated to the side lines.  

The Press ran a sympathetic story in 2011 about the “City of Sanctuary” but there has been little media coverage since

It is fair to say that the initiative prompted some extreme responses. Since then the rise of anti immigration sentiments, coupled with growing concerns about security,  have clouded the political background.

The Tory government is fighting to avoid being outflanked by the  extreme UKIP largely on immigration issues. The Labour party is embroiled in internal disputes apparently now feeling that the provision of seperate railway carriages for women is a topic worthy of high level debate!

Refugee_boat_sinks__160315aOnly the new LibDem Leader Tim Farron has taken a positive initiative and said that the UK should join with other European countries and act positively to deal with the crisis

The UN states that at least 2,636 people have died over the last few months fleeing persecution in the Middle East

So should York take an initiative and say that it will find accommodation for (say) a dozen more refugees in the City?

We think so. 

It might prompt other, larger, City’s to take a similar stance. 

Communities acting together might just prompt the government to show more compassion and treat people as people not statistics.

We hope so

Refugee leaders

(NB There is a separate organisation “Refugee Action York” which works in similar field. It is a charity which depends on voluntary donations although it claims the support of the National Lottery and the City of York Council).


7 thoughts on “York: City of Sanctuary?

  1. John Bibby says:

    Well said Steve! Can we meet up and develop this idea? Call me on 330334

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  3. Matt Gluggles says:

    Mr Galloway,

    what a sensible blog article.

    Thank You for articulating what many people in York are thinking.

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