Portsmouth Aerial

30 January 2020

4 min read

Portsmouth is a city proud to offer safety and sanctuary to anyone fleeing violence and persecution, or who is vulnerable and isolated. Over 100 local, like minded organisations, including the University have come together to form a City of Sanctuary and share a vision to raise awareness and address local issues of vulnerability and indignity, with inclusiveness, kindness and compassion.

The University has established a cross faculty/department working group who have begun to consider how the University can work towards becoming a University of Sanctuary. Two student sabbatical officers are part of the group and are working towards forming a STAR (Student Action for Refugees) group.

The University of Sanctuary status would result in the University being recognised as a place where everyone feels safe, welcome and able to pursue their right to education. There are 14 recognised Universities of Sanctuary in the UK. Recognition involves an institution providing evidence of their commitment to a culture of welcome in three areas – Learn, Embed and Share. The working group has identified two immediate priorities, offering Sanctuary Scholarships and providing access to University facilities. This work builds on the University’s commitment to support academics at risk through Cara, and aligns with the University’s strategy to become a leading civic university.

Gioia Pescetto, who is leading the working group, said: “As a University, we have expertise in our teaching and research in the field of migration and human rights and are committed to working closely with other organisations in the city to drive inclusiveness and opportunities for all. Our engagement in the City of Sanctuary initiative has supported us to build good relationships with organisations supporting people seeking sanctuary in the local area, for example, our students offer legal advice in partnership with the British Red Cross.”

As a City of Sanctuary, a number of initiatives are in progress across Portsmouth including:

  • Portsmouth’s annual Journey’s Festival International (arts festival supported by the University) is becoming a Festival of Sanctuary
  • Admiral Lord Nelson School is about to become the first ‘School of Sanctuary’ in the city 
  • All Saints’ Church is applying to become the first UK Church of Sanctuary
  • The city becoming the first City of Sanctuary for Autism
  • Provide a Meal, an app which provides meal codes for the homeless and needy, is also aligned with the city’s strategy to address food poverty.

If you read the Portsmouth News, you will see a monthly update as events, ideas and action in the city develop.

You can also follow updates on Twitter and Facebook as well as the website.

If you want any more information about the University’s involvement with this initiative, or would like to get involved, please contact gioia.pescetto@port.ac.ukbryony.whitmarsh@port.ac.uk or denise.callender@port.ac.uk.