Ipswich: Sanctuary bid gets unanimous backing

The borough has given unanimous backing to the Town of Sanctuary bid – giving its support to a scheme to help improve the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.

Borough spokesman for a fairer and greener Ipswich Sandy Martin emphasised that the move would not lead to more asylum seekers being sent to the town – they are allocated by the government’s border agency and the council cannot influence their numbers.

He said the move was a commitment to treat asylum seekers and refugees with respect and human decency.

He added: “One of the most important phrases in the motion is ‘to challenge misinformation in the wider community.’

“People are confused. People read stories in some of the organs of our wonderful national press, or receive e-mails which have been sent and re-sent like the whispered rumours in a medieval market-place.”

Asylum seekers were not given cars, mopeds, or put at the top of housing waiting lists. They are not a cost to Ipswich council – their costs come from the central government.

Between 2006 and 2010 Ipswich played host to 214 asylum seekers – about two thirds had their asylum application refused and some had been sent home.

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The number of people affected was small – and they deserved to be treated with respect while in the town.

The motion was seconded by LibDem group leader Andrew Cann who pointed out there was a long history of this region providing sanctuary – starting with the Protestant Huguenots who fled France in the 16th century.

“We have also been on the other side as people from this area fled to America with the Pilgrim Fathers to find religious tolerance,” he added.

And the motion was also backed by Conservative group deputy leader Chris Stewart, who said the move should encourage people to treat refugees with more respect.

Will the “Town of Sanctuary” concept change attitudes? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail starletters@archant.co.uk

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