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Exeter’s city of sanctuary campaign


Rosa Jones discusses why we all need to stand up with refugees. 

A human is a human. Unless they are born on the wrong side of our fence. Rape, torture, kidnap, and slavery are crimes we abhor. The desperation to keep your children alive is an instinct indicative of love, compassion and selflessness. Unless these desperate journeys bring someone to cross the wrong side of our fence. Then we decide a victim is a criminal.

If we gave enough time to listen to a refugee who arrived on UK shores, we might realise we were in the company of a hero. But we’d rather avoid that because then how could we allow a border policy that shuts the doors on people in desperation? How would we believe the articles that repeatedly ignore the difference between refugees and illegal immigrants, and tell us that they’ve all sneaked over to steal our jobs and drain our welfare system?

Here refugees are treated like criminals. An anonymous victim spoke to the New Statesman about her escape from the Border Gezi military training camp that she was forced into when abducted from her college in Zimbabwe. Guards kidnapped her, raped her, beat her and left her to die. She made the terrifying journey to the UK, then our guards put her in a cell and paraded her in front of almost entirely male staff, who continue to get away with sexual abuse because the women they are ‘guarding’ come from a world where they know no alternative.
What could possibly be going on in the UK’s detention centres that has led to 16 suicides, self-harm and hunger strikes? People who have persevered through unimaginable hardship, only to now give up on life.

How many of us know that seeking asylum as a refugee is legally a human right? How many people are aware that holding refugees in detention centres is what is actually burdening our economy? Take the victim from Zimbabwe: it is her dream to become a midwife. The NHS currently has a shortage of 2,300 midwives, and training one of them costs less than it does to hold a female prisoner in a detention centre.

But here in Exeter things are changing. A countrywide initiative is being brought to our city that is pivotal in cutting away at the public stigmatisation of refugees. If Exeter can achieve the ‘City of Sanctuary’ status, organisations all across the town will join the movement to build a culture of hospitality for people seeking sanctuary in the UK.

Anyone can support the City of Sanctuary movement – from attending or assisting the lecture series that will be beginning in the city in January, fundraising and campaigning alongside Refugee Support Devon and University societies, to simply signing our petition.
Join the Exeter City of Sanctuary Movement on Facebook or by contacting the project on info@exeter.cityofsanctuary.org for all the information you need on how to get involved and spread the word. Let’s show refugees who are already considered part of our city that they are welcome as members of our community.

Rosa Jones

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