Skip to main content


14th -16th December 2018

In December 2018, City of Sanctuary UK and Asylum Matters collaborated on a Sanctuary in Politics course held in Bristol. This three-day course brought together 15 participants from a range of sanctuary-seeking backgrounds all living in the South-West of England.

On the first day participants focused on the UK political system and the ways of political engagement, led by City of Sanctuary UK Chair of Trustees Jonathan Ellis. This was followed by an introduction to the UK Parliament delivered by Tomas Williams, Senior Education and Engagement Officer from the Parliamentary Outreach Team. This session explained people, power and parliament, proceedings in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, including how bills are passed into law and the role of the Queen. The day ended with a presentation about the role of local councillors and what Local Authorities can do to support sanctuary seekers, led by Bristol City Councillor Ruth Pickersgill. Ruth explained how councillors can influence policy change at local, national and international levels with examples of initiatives supporting refugee groups.

Participants with Bristol’s Easton ward Cllr Ruth Pickersgill standing on the left with a black jumper

On the second day they turned to campaigning and advocacy strategies The second day of SIPC focused on campaigning, policy change, routes for campaigning and must-have qualities for campaigners.

Asylum Matters then led a session on organising an effective campaign. Participants had the chance to be involved by looking at case studies to spot tactics and feedback about them and think about how to influence decision makers.

Participants enjoyed a role play of lobbying an MP and learnt about issues facing refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK and some of the existing campaigns e.g. Lift the Ban.

With Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy sitting on the middle

Forward Maisokwadzo, Communications Officer at City of Sanctuary UK led a session on the importance of protecting yourself when campaigning. This is crucial especially during direct campaigns and it is important for sanctuary seekers to know they are able to campaign safely and effectively.

On the final day participants considered ways of working with the media to promote sanctuary stories.

Participants shared their feedback anonymously at the end of the course:

“The advocacy campaign was the best or my favourite part. The workshops and the scope of content covered was effective and excellent. “

“We have the knowledge and I found out that’s amazing opportunities we have to voice our own mind because actions speak louder than voice. It is a long time since I had a voice.”

“The whole training was very useful in terms of information and practicing. Also the speakers have very professional, clear and passionate on speaking about the topic.”

“I met with the people of City of Sanctuary for the first time and that is amazing for me. Also I met with other lovely colleagues from many cities.”