MAY 2022: News from Mayor Marvin Rees

April 28 2022

Our city of hope and sanctuary

BRISTOL is a proud City of Sanctuary: a place of welcome and safety for all, people fleeing violence and persecution. We’ve displayed this many times in the decade we’ve had this status, but in recent months Bristol has responded to the terrible scenes we’ve seen in Ukraine with practical support. 

This is a whole city effort and we have seen organisations and individuals from every part of the city working together to do what we can for those affected by the war. As of mid-April, 295 Bristolians have offered a sanctuary by hosting Ukrainians. 107 visas have been approved under the Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme. We know that 385 Ukrainians have so far applied for a visa to come to Bristol. 

Bristol Airport will be an arrival hub for Ukrainians and we are working with regional partners to support the new arrivals.

We have received three families in Bristol, with all families having children with cancer now being treated at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. 

The council is working with local faith groups to establish ten neighbourhood hubs which will provide welcome, support and community integration for arriving Ukrainian guests. We have also reached out to organisations and individuals to provide practical support such as translation.

As well as providing accommodation, this also includes finding school places, organising English lessons, preparing social care services, as well as carrying out the necessary checks to ensure the wellbeing of both the host and guests.

I would ask anyone who can offer practical support to get in touch – particularly those with Ukrainian language skills – to help us coordinate, support, and welcome people to Bristol by emailing bristolrefugeeteam@bristol.gov.uk.

But we are conscious of the discrepancies in the treatment of different groups of refugees and asylum seekers. We must be careful we don’t subconsciously and accidentally endorse a two-tier refugee system in the world. Everyone is deserving of safety.

Bristol City Council has experience of resettling displaced people from around the world. Before Covid-19 we settled 380 people from the Middle East and North Africa. Since April 2021, after transport restrictions lifted, we have resettled 30 people through the UK resettlement scheme, and we will resettle another six families before the end of April. 

Since the Afghan Crisis in the summer of 2021 we have supported 303 Afghans in temporary accommodation in Bristol and we have provided accommodation to 105 Afghans since July 2021.

Bristol is proud to be able to offer genuine sanctuary to people whatever circumstances they have fled. I know that we will continue to step up and help welcome those who need our support at this difficult time. As a City of Hope we’ll do whatever we can.