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Sanctuary in Politics Course in Durham – Three days of learning


            “During this training, I found out that even being an asylum seeker/ refugee, I have more rights then I could imagine. And I can make my voice heard. I was inspired.” – A participant

Over three days (26-28 September 2019) in Durham, 18 people seeking sanctuary attended a three-day residential course Sanctuary in Politics organised by the national City of Sanctuary team. The aim of the Sanctuary in Politics course is to educate, engage and empower groups of sanctuary seekers about the UK political system and history and provide skills training in working with the media, awareness raising, campaigning and advocacy. This course is intended to equip a new generation of leaders to become ‘sanctuary ambassadors’ within the City of Sanctuary network and and raise the voices of people seeking sanctuary.

Attendees came from across the Northeast and Yorkshire to participate in the event and from a range of backgrounds. The Durham SIPC course covered a range of topics in a series of sessions, including:

  • Establishing shared understanding of course values
  • Introduction to the Political History of the UK (emphasis on post-1832 reforms)
  • Equality and diversity in the UK
  • Introduction to the UK media scene and how to engage effectively
  • People, Power & Parliament – An Introduction to the UK Parliament
  • Role of Local Councillor & what you can do
  • Campaigning on human and social rights
  • Introduction to campaigning on refugee/asylum seeker issues

Facilitators and presentors for the course came from partner organisations like IMiX, Just Fair, The UK Parliament Outreach team, Newcastle City Council as well the City of Sanctuary staff team. City of Sanctuary received generous hospitality from St. Aidan’s College and St Chad’s College at Durham University to host the event. This Durham SIPC course follows on from earlier courses in Preston, Bristol, and the Republic of Ireland.

Between the learning sessions, attendees and CoS team found time for walks in Durham, an open mic night, dancing and lots of laughter and new friendships. Overall, the feedback from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive with comments like: “every part of the training was exactly what I came for” and “everything was up to marks”  – and most frequently – “thank you!”

The attendees will be working on post-course assignments to put into action all they have learned. They are being supported by mentors local to them. The course mates will come back together for a presentation and graduation ceremony in 2020 to celebrate their work and achievements. The CoS staff team cannot wait to be reunited with this energetic and inspirational group of new activists, poised to lead the sanctuary movement.