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Spring newsletter


It seems strange that just two months ago many of us came together for our Annual Celebration at Norwich Arts Centre. Since then, our world has been turned upside down, with the most vulnerable in our society being exposed to the toughest challenges.
Here in Norwich, the brilliant, hard-working charities who support asylum seekers and refugees have come together to coordinate a response to the crisis. Bridge+, English Plus, New Routes Integration and Norwich International Youth Project are bidding for extra funding to try to ensure everyone has enough food, internet access and practical items such as cleaning products during the lockdown.
Norwich City of Sanctuary’s volunteers met online last week to discuss the challenges ahead and what steps we can take. The many organisations in the city who support our aims, such as UEA, are all looking to see what they can do, details of which are included in this newsletter.
We hope that you’ll join us in helping in any way you can to continue to make Norwich a welcoming city for all.

The Norwich City of Sanctuary Team


New Routes Integration | English+ | The Bridge Plus+
These local charities who support refugees, asylum seekers, and migrant communities in Norwich have developed the following response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The organisations that work together under the NIP have closed their premises and are working remotely until further notice.
The Bridge Plus+ are focusing on access to welfare benefits (Universal Credit, contacting JobCentre, Norwich City Council, Tax Credits etc). Support will be provided over the phone and through Whatsapp. Interpreters are available.
New Routes Integration are focusing on online/phone one-to-one support, online ESOL classes, emergency food/financial support, and dissemination of important information.
English+ are focusing on online/phone one-to-one support, online ESOL classes, emergency food/financial support, and dissemination of important information.

In addition, Norwich International Youth Project are offering online ESOL classes and looking at creative ways to engage the young people they support and reduce their isolation.


The UEA, as a University of Sanctuary, reports that it has seen a rise in the number of xenophobic incidents, since coronavirus first hit the headlines. We at Norwich City of Sanctuary are joining with the UEA to denounce this kind of abuse as entirely unacceptable. To gauge if this behaviour is being replicated across the city, we would like anyone who is aware of incidents to email us at: [email protected]

The UEA issued the following statement:

“The spread of the coronavirus transcends boundaries and identities. It affects people regardless of their nationality, gender, age, socio-economic standing, political loyalties or citizenship status. Yet reports are increasing that coronavirus concerns are being used to harass individuals on the basis of their perceived nationality. As part of the University of Sanctuary and Changing the Culture initiatives at UEA, it is clear that such hostile attitudes which target members of particular communities and present them as a “threat”, are racist and completely unacceptable.
As a University of Sanctuary, UEA is committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all, and it is the spirit of sanctuary – not fear and anger – that is most needed in these uncertain times. Even though we must re-adjust our social routines, we must not lose our sense of compassion and openness to others, as otherwise we would find ourselves on a slippery slope to growing intolerance and many more types of exclusion. Coronavirus does not discriminate, it affects us all, and we have to respond as one – we are all in this together.
If you are a student and have experienced verbal or non-verbal harassment, please report this to 
Report and Support on the UEA website.”

If you would like to find out more about the University of Sanctuary initiative, please click here.

UEA Sanctuary Scholarships available 
For the 2020/21 academic year, UEA will look to offer a number of scholarships including to students who are seeking asylum in the UK, and are not entitled to receive statutory student financial support. Please visit for further information on all available scholarships.


Norwich Millennium Library, who are working towards becoming a Library of Sanctuary, have compiled a list of mental health and well-being resources available to anyone to help them through this period.

A guide to support your mental health while working at home is available to download from Mental Health First Aid England.

For support if you are feeling anxious about the impact of the coronavirus, see MIND Wellbeing advice online.

Every Mind Matters is an NHS website which includes a short quiz to complete which then provides a plan, tips and advice to help with your mental health.

Mental wellbeing audio guides are also available from the NHS. These covering low mood, sadness and depression; anxiety control training; overcoming sleep problems; low confidence and assertiveness and unhelpful thinking are also available.

Mental health apps are listed on the NHS Apps Library (including free ones) and online community apps.

Breathing exercise guides for stress are also accessible from the NHS website.


Due to the current circumstances, we have decided that our annual day of learning and action ‘Norfolk Welcomes’ (scheduled for Friday 12th June 2020) will not take place in the form that we had planned it. We will however still be marking Refugee Week and hope that many of the schools in the network will join with us to take part in our Refugee Week projects, details of which you can find below.
It has been decided that due to the lock-down across the UK, Refugee Week this year will be a virtual festival, with events happening online. With this in mind, the Heritage Lottery Fund project Havens East, of which we are a part, will be creating an online multimedia exhibition to showcase the experiences of Basque child refugees who in 1937 sought sanctuary from the Spanish Civil War and spent time in East Anglia. It promises to be very exciting. More details of this will follow later in the year.
Using the stories of these Basque children as an inspiration, and in partnership with Anglia Ruskin University, we will also be encouraging schools in Norfolk and across the country to be part of our new initiative…

‘A Day of Welcome’

This initiative aims to inspire schools and regions across the country to learn about refugee migration and build a culture of welcome for sanctuary seekers. This year ‘A Day of Welcome’ will largely be an online event. We are currently finalising our plans for this and are in discussions with Amnesty International, Refugee Week and the national City of Sanctuary team about possible collaborations.
We will be providing ideas, resources and activities for families and schools to be involved in a variety of ways. We are looking for schools (and/or families who are home-learning) who are interested in being a part of A Day of Welcome on Friday 12th June 2020. To express an interest in being involved please email Jake at: [email protected]


Norwich City of Sanctuary’s Art Stream volunteers worked incredibly hard to organise a new event in Norwich’s calendar – an Arts Auction – which was due to be held on Friday 29th March 2020, just before the lockdown.
This event has been postponed but will hopefully go ahead on Friday 18th September 2020.
Proceeds from the sale of over 100 pieces of art, donated by local artists, including Colin Self and Anthony Gormley, will go towards charities supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Norwich. Some of the artwork was distributed among 21 venues in the city to form an Art Trail ahead of the event, which should also take place during September.

On a national level, much is being done to support the migrant community across the UK. Here is a short summary of some of the resources which have been put together:

Doctors of the World have published guidance in over 20 languages on the coronavirus and how people can protect themselves and each other:

Asylum Matters joined together with other organisations to sign a joint letter to the Home Secretary calling for specific measures to protect migrants and the general population from COVID-19. This included calls for the suspension of all NHS charging and data-sharing for the purposes of immigration enforcement and the suspension of the ‘no recourse to public funds’ conditions to ensure everyone can access support. You can read the letter and add your name here, and read coverage in the Independent here.

A joint letter has been sent to the Prime Minister, signed by more than 60 organisations including Asylum Matters, calling on the Government to take urgent action to support people who are destitute and homeless because of their migration status. Policy recommendations include enabling social distancing and self-isolation, including through block-booking hotel spaces and stopping evictions; ensuring access to healthcare with the abolishment of charging and clear public comms around this; providing financial support including by removing NRPF conditions and enabling everyone to access Universal Credit. The letter is available here

Thank you for your continued support.

Norwich City of Sanctuary (April 2020)