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City of Sanctuary is a movement to build a culture of hospitality for people seeking sanctuary in the UK, Ireland and beyond. Our goal is to create a network of places which are proud to offer safety to people seeking sanctuary, with local communities being inclusive and welcoming.

The City of Sanctuary movement began in October 2005 in Sheffield. In September 2007, with the support of the City Council and over 70 local community organisations, Sheffield became the UK’s first ‘City of Sanctuary’ – a city that takes pride in the welcome it offers to people in need of safety.


Since then, we have supported the development and spread of City of Sanctuary initiatives in communities across UK and Ireland. We believe the ‘sanctuary message’ of welcome and inclusion is vital in all spheres of society and as such we are committed to helping schools, health and maternity services, theatres and arts centres, churches and other faith centres, sports groups, communities, businesses and homes become ‘places of sanctuary’. A key element of these ‘streams of sanctuary’ is awareness raising, by giving a platform to the voices of asylum seekers and refugees, so that they can be heard by those who might otherwise never hear them.background-stream-hi


Out of these streams has become University of Sanctuary, an initiative to celebrate the good practice of Universities welcoming asylum seeking and refugees into their university community and foster a culture of welcome and inclusion for all.

We want to develop a culture of welcome for all those seeking sanctuary to spread through institutions of Higher Education. In particular, we encourage Universities to:copy-of-leeds-university-still-human-still-here-22-02-2012

  • do everything possible to secure equal access to higher education for sanctuary seekers.
  • reach out to and support sanctuary seekers in their local communities who could benefit from University resources in a sustainable way.

Since the refugee crisis hit the news in September 2015, there has been a surge in interest and support for refugees, in universities and across society more widely. There have been some innovative and exciting initiatives, at all levels within institutions. A University of Sanctuary should be a place where anyone can feel safe, welcome and able to pursue their right to education. University can seem like an impossible goal for some, while others might not even consider it as an option for themselves. This should not be the case. University should be a possibility for all, and even for those who do not wish to study, universities should be welcoming and safe places, even just by letting people use the facilities who may not otherwise have access to books in their own language, computers, sports facilities and more. Universities, and groups within, are well placed to be able to lead on fundraising, campaigns, research and a whole host of other things to help refugees locally and globally. Universities have huge potential to help those who really need it.


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