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Borough of Sanctuary

Our borough has a proud history of supporting refugees and migrants.

Get involved - take the Sanctuary Pledge

If you're an individual or an organisation, please pledge your support to asylum, migrants and refugees in Lewisham by signing our Borough of Sanctuary pledge.

Once you've pledged your support, we'll keep you updated about our Sanctuary programme with our regular newsletter. We'll also send you details of Sanctuary events in Lewisham, and a digital pack to help you share information on social media:

Lewisham - the first Borough of Sanctuary

At a time of increased pressure on people with uncertain immigration status, we are proud to have been recognised as the first Borough of Sanctuary by the national charity ‘City of Sanctuary’, who awarded us the title of ‘Council of Sanctuary’ in May 2021. This is the first time a council has been awarded this honour.

The award follows our corporate strategy to be an open and welcoming borough. To make this commitment real, we helped create the Lewisham Migration Forum, which is comprised of local organisations that provides services and other support to migrants.

On World Refugee Day, June 20, 2023, we celebrated the resettlement of our 100th refugee family in our borough.

What is a Borough of Sanctuary?

As the UK’s first Borough of Sanctuary, we welcome those fleeing violence and persecution in their own countries and protect the rights of all migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. The Lewisham Migration Forum coordinates our collective effort to make our borough as welcoming and inclusive as possible.

Our aim is to encourage individuals and organisations across our borough to join us in enacting the principles of the Cities of Sanctuary movement. These are:

  • offer a positive vision of a culture of welcome and hospitality to all
  • create opportunities for relationships of friendship and solidarity between local people and those seeking sanctuary
  • recognise and encourage partnership working and network development across localities
  • identify opportunities for practical action and work on common cause issues to effect change within and across communities (turning empathy into action)
  • celebrate and promote the welcome contribution of people seeking sanctuary
  • engage people seeking sanctuary in decision making processes at all levels and in all activities promote understanding of asylum and refugee issues, especially by enabling refugee voices to be heard directly

Our work as a Borough of Sanctuary

Our first task was to encourage as many individuals and organisations as possible to join us in confirming their commitment and pledging to making Lewisham a Borough of Sanctuary. Our own commitment was enshrined in our Borough of Sanctuary strategy.

We then worked to enact the principles of sanctuary, and this process continues:

Borough of Sanctuary strategy

In 2020, we appointed the country’s first Sanctuary Officer to oversee the implementation of our Borough of Sanctuary strategy which was approved by Mayor and Cabinet on Wednesday 11 November 2020. 

Our strategy sets out a comprehensive approach to embedding sanctuary principles across all Council services so that the challenges particularly facing refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are considered and addressed in the way local services are provided. Some examples include:

Campaigning for change

We recognise that we are limited by law and national policy in our ability to provide support to refugees, asylum seekers and refugees. So we also campaign for change alongside other councils, national charities and our local partners in the Lewisham Migration Forum. Campaigns include: