Refugee Week (19 to 25 June) is a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary, organised by the City of Sanctuary UK team.
The City of Sanctuary UK team has provided various resources to help people mark Refugee Week, including colouring-in activities and posters to display – all are free to download.
There is a Cambridge chapter of City of Sanctuary, which partners with local organisations – including The Cambridge Convoy Refugee Action Group and Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign – to build a culture of hospitality and welcome for refugees arriving in Cambridge.
Cambridge City Council has consistently committed to supporting this work to help refugees in Cambridge to resettle and feel safe, welcome and part of our community.
We do this in a number of ways.
- Through formal government resettlement schemes we provide housing for people who have arrived from Afghanistan and Syria. In 2020, along with South Cambridgeshire District Council, we committed to settling 200 more refugees. In 2021 we said that we would provide four council houses each year, for the next five years, to help reach that target. In addition to finding suitable homes, we also have a team that supports people to settle in Cambridge in their first few years. This includes helping them to access healthcare, education, language lessons and work, supporting them to connect into the local community and live independent lives.
- Through the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, Cambridge residents have offered spare rooms or empty homes to people arriving from Ukraine. Our role in this scheme is to support refugees to feel welcome and get to know Cambridge, offering practical support to both refugees and their hosts, as well as conducting accommodation and safeguarding checks and administering financial support. When the time comes for refugees to move on, out of their hosts’ accommodation, we are also able to offer support to find suitable accommodation locally. Since March 2022, over 500 refugees have been supported to settle in Cambridge from Ukraine.
- Outside of the schemes mentioned above, we also support individuals and families who have sought asylum and achieved refugee status and settled in Cambridge. This may include offering support with housing. So that these individuals and families are also able to access practical advice and support to settle in Cambridge, we commission Cambridge Ethnic Community Forum.
Community education and arts programme
Each year the council commissions Helen Weinstein from HistoryWorks to run a Holocaust Memorial Day education and arts programme with local pupils, community groups and choirs.
In the last couple of years, the Holocaust Memorial Day programme has drawn on recent experiences of refugees, recognising the overlapping themes of Holocaust Memorial Day and Refugee Week.
The programme is supported by author Michael Rosen, artist in residence for the programme, and composer Andrea Cockerton. During 2023, the programme will have engaged with over 5,000 young people with workshops and school assemblies.
All of the young people involved in the programme are invited to compose a poem, song or rap inspired by the workshops. The compositions reflect on what happens when individuals, families and communities are driven out of, or wrenched from their homes, because of war or climate catastrophe, persecution or threat of genocide. The programme also considers difficulties survivors and refugees face as they try and build new homes and recover from the trauma of their experiences.
Voices of Hope and Compassion
Each year a public concert takes place at the Corn Exchange, featuring many of the pupils, community groups and choirs involved in the HistoryWorks education and arts programme.
The date of the 2023 concert – Voices of Hope and Compassion – is still to be confirmed, but is expected to take place in the autumn. The concert is free to attend, open to all, and ties the themes of Holocaust Memorial and Refugee Week together.
It will feature songs, readings, poetry, drama and dance pieces inspired by Michael Rosen’s words and story-telling. It will also feature new poetry and song lyrics written by Michael Rosen, set to music by composers Andrea Cockerton and Bethany Kirby, and performed by a choir of children representing Cambridge schools involved in the education and arts programme and poetry writing workshops.
At the annual concert, the team will be collecting (voluntary) donations for the Refugee Hardship Fund, which is administered by Cambridge Ethnic Community Forum (CECF) Refugee services. The CECF Refugee services support refugees, especially newly arrived refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine, and destitute asylum seekers.