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Solent University, Southampton, City Life Church and Southampton City Council have partnered to launch the Southampton Sanctuary Network to unite organisations and community members to enhance the experiences of people seeking sanctuary in the city.

20th November 2023
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This network will connect leaders and citizens across Southampton to share best practice and collaborate in a bid to better support individuals and families who have been forced to flee their homes.

The network provides a foundation of support for organisations working directly with refugees and asylum seekers, helping to identify opportunities that can positively transform lives. They are also passionate about elevating the voices of individuals with lived experiences and invite them to join the network as a pivotal member of the initiative. 

Solent's role as a partner builds on their commitment to become a University of Sanctuary and follows the launch of Solent Sanctuary Week in March 2023 which brought together staff, students and organisations to better understand and tackle a wide range of topics associated with immigration in the UK.

Solent University's Provost, Professor Syamantak Bhattacharya, says:

"Southampton is a historic port city which has forever welcomed people from across the globe, it is in our DNA, and our status as a City of Sanctuary is a shining example of what makes it a fantastic place to live, work and study. This network is working collaboratively to ensure those building a home in the city are welcomed and have access to the resources and people that make them feel part of Southampton's identity.

"As a place of safety and inclusion, it is essential for us to work across a wide range of organisations and businesses, alongside communities and individuals, to embed good practice in Southampton and promote a culture of inclusion.

"At Solent we are committed to providing accessible routes into higher education and award a yearly Sanctuary Scholarship, offering refugees and asylum seekers a foundation of support within an inclusive learning community. This network is going to play an important role in fostering a long-lasting culture of inclusion in Southampton and ensuring it can be seen and felt in all areas of the city."

City Life Church has been supporting refugees and asylum seekers adjust to life in the UK since 2001 through their CLEAR project (City Life Education and Action for Refugees). Most recently, the charity received two lots of funding from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to support Hong Kong nationals who have come to live in Southampton. 

City Life Church Leader, Paul Woodman, says:

"This network is important because it upholds the fundamental principles of compassion, solidarity, and human rights. It provides a lifeline to those fleeing conflict and persecution, offering them a chance at safety, dignity, and a new beginning. It gathers together those committed to making Southampton a welcoming place and to be a City of Sanctuary."

The network is meeting for the first time on Wednesday 22 November, bringing together organisations from across Southampton to assess the outcomes of the network and how it operates to ensure it has the highest impact possible.

The Southampton Sanctuary Network will now meet four times a year to continue enhancing and embedding support for refugees and asylum seekers, ensuring they have access to education, employment and community initiatives. 

The network is keen to work with as many organisations in Southampton as possible and is welcoming new participants. To find out more and join, contact sanctuary@solent.ac.uk