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Craven aiming for district of sanctuary status

Wednesday, June 15th, 2022 3:55pm

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter

Craven is preparing a bid to be recognised as a district of sanctuary that welcomes people fleeing war-torn countries.

If successful, the status will mean Craven joins a network of areas across the UK that are proud to welcome refugees and help them fully integrate.

The district aims to follow in the footsteps of local areas including Bradford, Leeds, Harrogate and York.

But to do this it must achieve a number of goals.

Craven District Council’s policy committee will next week be asked to approve the submission of an action plan which sets out how refugees will be supported in the future.

After this, an application will have to be made to the City of Sanctuary Local Authority Network.

The council said in a report that Craven has a “long history” of welcoming refugees, including 12 people through the government’s Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme and 34 people through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.

There are also around 30 Ukrainian refugees currently being hosted in Craven as a result of Russia’s invasion of the country, with an additional 71 visas approved.

The council report said: “In order to show people seeking sanctuary and our local residents that we are committed to providing a safe, supportive and welcoming environment to refugees and asylum seekers, we propose developing an action plan setting out the steps we will take to make Craven a district of sanctuary.

“In developing this action plan we will work with local refugee groups, who are already providing a warm welcome and support across the district.”

The proposed bid comes amid warnings that some Ukrainian refugees have been placed in such remote locations in North Yorkshire that they are “entirely dependent” on their host families.

Craven District Council leader Richard Foster told a recent meeting: “We have plenty of people giving up their houses and volunteering, but it isn’t the targeted approach taking people to areas we’re used to, it’s very much scattergun across the county.

“In rural areas people must be able to access bus services and that sort of thing.
“It’s great that people are willing to do it, but it is going to cause issues.”

Within Craven, there are a number of community groups which came together in 2015 to form the Craven Refugee Support Network.

This included groups in Bentham, Settle, Skipton and Upper Wharfedale which would work with the council on its proposed action plan.

If the bid for sanctuary status is successful, Labour councillor Chris Rose – who first proposed the idea for Craven – would be made district of sanctuary champion.

The council would also make an annual donation of £250 to the city of sanctuary charity for the next five years.

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