Sanctuary Lancashire 2017: Asylum and Refugee Conference

We attended the Sanctuary Lancashire 2017 conference and it was a great day. It was really good to deliver 3 workshops in addition to networking and exchanging ideas with like minded individuals and groups from across Lancashire.

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What was the conference about?

The conference and corresponding workshops that were delivered throughout the day were for those involved in supporting and assisting asylum seekers and refugees based across the Lancashire region.

Lancashire has a proud history of welcoming those fleeing persecution and this conference was to demonstrate the wide range of groups, services and individuals that are active in making those seeking asylum feel at home and welcome.

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Who attended the event?

Held at the Gujarat Hindu Society and Community Centre, the venue is ideal for many reasons. Within an easy 5 minute walk from the train station, accessibility was key for attendees from all over Lancashire and beyond.

Over 250 individuals attended the conference, which is a fantastic turnout for the first ever Sanctuary Lancashire conference. It is already looking very likely that another conference will be held in 2018 and we anticipate it to be bigger than this year’s event.

Attendees ranged from asylum seekers, refugees, local council partners, third party service providers and individuals who wanted to share their experiences. It was a well-rounded event with a good cross section of society attending the event.

Who were the speakers at the conference?

Siân Jay, who acted as the M.C. chairs the West Lancashire Multi-Agency Forum as an Associate with West Lancs Council for Voluntary Service (CVS). West Lancs CVS works with Skem International, a refugee run organisation committed to share skills and support locals and new arrivals.

Alexander Fraser is UK Director of Refugee Support and Restoring Family Links at British Red Cross.

Gulwali Passarlay, In 2006, was forced to leave his country to become a political refugee in the UK. Today, Gulwali is a published author, TEDx speaker, and a Politics major at the University of Manchester. He is also the author of The Lightless Sky: An Afghan Refugee Boy’s Journey of Escape to A New Life in Britain.

Saulo Cwerner coordinates the Lancashire Refugee Resettlement Programmes. He has worked with migration, asylum, refugee and community cohesion issues for over 20 years, both as a researcher and a local government officer. He presently works at Lancashire County Council.

Eman Mashhour is from Yemen and a teacher by profession. She is now an interpreter and also works with the Red Cross on family tracing.

Aftab Mughal is a Pakistani journalist and a human rights activist, and the editor of Minority Concern of Pakistan’s magazine.

Stride Partnership delivered three workshop sessions

In addition to having a stand in the main hall, we were also asked to deliver some workshop sessions to attendees. The conference had several breakout workshops centred around the following themes:

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  • Increasing understanding of refugees in schools
  • Health, well-being and mental health
  • Building community support for refugees
  • Employing refugees: challenges and solutions
  • Asylum and refugee housing
  • Asylum process, human trafficking, exploitation and modern day slavery
  • Faith & culture
  • Setting up English and ESOL classes

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Naturally, we were asked to deliver worksops on the theme of ‘Asylum and refugee housing’. Other service providers and professionals from across Lancashire delivered the other workshop sessions described above.

Participants and Feedback

We delivered three separate 45 minute workshops to be delivered on the theme of ‘Asylum and refugee housing’. Each session had a question and answer session at the end, but we took questions throughout.

We decided to focus our efforts on the issues surrounding housing for refugees and the possible solutions we have been working on for the last 12 months. Most of the attendees of the sessions were third party service providers who were interested in what we were doing to aid the integration of refugees into society and what we could offer going forward.

Looking forward to the next workshops

While the general feedback of the workshop was very good, there are some things that we could improve on. For example, since this was the first conference of its kind in Lancashire, we were unsure of the makeup of the attendees. In the end, it was mostly service providers that had, in general, a good understanding of the basics of asylum housing concerns.

Furthermore, most of our work is to bridge the gap beyond asylum housing i.e. once a client has recieved ‘right to remain’ status. It did seem that some attendees may have been looking at discussions on asylum housing specifically. Nevertheless, we feel we made some good connections on the day and look forward to delivering some sessions on tenancy, budgeting, finance and integrating into the UK in the coming months through these developing partnerships.

The sessions were delivered by Nadia Shiraz and we’re grateful for her well-received presentation. Any enquiries to speak to Nadia are welcome. Please get in touch via the contact page.

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