Belfast City of Sanctuary (BCoS) was launched at Belfast City Hall last Thursday. A new committee, comprising 10 individuals, was agreed – including 50% representation from refugees and asylum seekers. A constitution was put in place and a working plan presented for the months ahead. People were invited to become members of BCoS.
Participation was good (despite the really atrocious weather), including people from various bodies and NGOs, such as Belfast City Hall Good Relations, Embrace, Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre (BURC), Housing Executive, the Metropolitan College, LGBT community, Bryson House Intercultural, North Belfast Friendship Club,the (South) Belfast Friendship Club (BFC), the Chinese Welfare Association, Belfast City Council (the Deputy Lord Mayor), Amnesty International, the Larne House Visitors Group, etc
In one of the sessions, moving contributions/speeches were made by asylum seekers and refugees from Africa House, NICRAS, Belfast Friendship Club, etc Religious groups were there too. Some speakers/participants had to drop out because of the weather and transport cancellations, including the schools’ choir (Blythefield Primary – a school of sanctuary on the Shankill Road area) and the people/speakers from Places of Sanctuary Ireland. We had quite a few apologies.
Universities of Sanctuary and Students of Sanctuary were flagged up as a key stream of concern.