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Mayor backs plans for Reading to become a sanctuary

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A grassroots movement that aims to build bridges, dispel myths about asylum seekers has received backing from one of the highest possible places in Reading – from the Mayor.

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In 2005 the first City of Sanctuary group was founded in Sheffield. There are now 40 towns and cities with connections to the City of Sanctuary organisation and plans are afoot to bring the scheme to Reading.

“We are a grass roots movement,” said Colleen Molloy, City of Sanctuary Regional Development Officer who spoke about the City of Sanctuary movement at the Reading Refugee Support Group (RRSG) AGM, held on October 17.

“We build bridges between local people and refugees. We also dispel myths and celebrate the truth.

“We want to break down fear that is being whipped up by some political parties. Our aim is to raise awareness at all levels.”

Mayor of Reading, Cllr Tony Jones, supported the plans by handing over a cheque for £2,000 from the Mayor’s Charity Fund. The presentation took place AGM, where plans were unveiled to make Reading a City of Sanctuary for vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers.

A city (or town) of sanctuary will do this through Streams of Sanctuary. These are areas in the community where pro-active awareness, advocacy and action can take place. These may be: schools and university, arts, health and maternity, places of faith and worship, and any of the myriad clubs and societies that operate throughout the area.

Cllr Jones said: “I want to use this [mayoral] chain between now and May to start building Reading into a City of Sanctuary.

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“It is now more important than ever to have a City of Sanctuary. I want to take a practical stance on this issue and not just talk about it as politicians. My commitment to the City of Sanctuary goes beyond the end of this year.”

Reading Borough Council’s commitment to the plan also goes beyond party lines; Liberal Democrat councillor Meri O’Connell attended the meeting and Tory MP for Reading East Rob Wilson and Rob White – the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Reading East – are giving the City of Sanctuary their backing.

“Everyone in a town or city can get involved in the City of Sanctuary movement,” Colleen said. “Whether that is the local council or a small mums and toddlers group.

“Small acts of kindness can make a big difference. Just holding someone’s hand in a difficult situation can make a big difference.”

To find out more about City of Sanctuary visit its website, www.cityofsanctuary.org

To find out more about Reading Refugee Support Group visit www.rrsg.org.uk

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