Read our 6 point Manifesto for Sanctuary Seekers in conjunction with Bristol Refugee Rights, Bristol Hospitality Network, Bristol City of Sanctuary and Bath Welcomes Refugees. 

METRO MAYOR ELECTIONS FOR THE WEST OF ENGLAND 2017 - MANIFESTO FOR SANCTUARY SEEKERS 

 
The election of a Metro Mayor for the West of England offers an opportunity for the development of policies to improve the welcome, resettlement and integration of sanctuary seekers in the Bristol BANES and South Gloucestershire areas. Increasing numbers of asylum seekers are being dispersed to Bristol and neighbouring authorities, but are tending to access services within Bristol, so a coordinated regional response is required. Refugees also often move to the West of England from other cities once they get recognised as refugees. In particular there are six important themes as set out below. 
 
We urge all candidates to sign up to our manifesto. 
 
1) The overall approach #rethinkingrefugee 
 
It is very important that we change the narrative around refugees so they are no longer seen as a burden or a problem but as an asset for the region. A welcoming and positive approach to those seeking sanctuary is very much part of the vision of being open to the world that the West of England will need to meet the challenges of the years ahead. In particular, refugees bring skills, qualifications, experience, cultural understanding and enterprise, which we need if our region is to maximise its competitiveness. The Metro Mayor should commit to the #rethinkingrefugee approach and state that refugees should be seen by all as a potential benefit to our community. 
 
2) Housing 
 
Refugees need access to appropriate housing so they can thrive as they progress through the integration process. The problem of access to appropriate housing for refugees is compounded by the high cost and shortage of properties in the region. It is important that housing for refugees is accessible, culturally sensitive and yet facilitates interaction within the community. Imaginative design and locations are needed. The Metro Mayor should ensure via strategic housing policy that the specific needs of refugees are included, and that the increasing problem of destitution of both refugees and destitute asylum seekers is addressed. 
 
3) Education, skills and development 
 
The West of England has a growing economy, skills shortages and challenges in finding qualified workers in the context of Brexit, Hinkley Point and other pressures. It is therefore essential that we utilise the skills and enterprise of refugees to maximum effect. More targeted vocational training and closer working with employers is badly needed. The region needs to have a clear strategy for flexible, accessible and high quality ESOL provision that enables asylum seekers and refugees to acquire the basic language skills they need for work as quickly as possible, and then enables them to progress in their career through studying a more technical or specialist curricula in the workplace. Refugees and asylum seekers need coordinated specialist careers information advice and guidance and targeted work experience. More focused support for refugee-led small and micro businesses is also needed. The Metro Mayor should ensure a greater flexibility in relation to the skills budget and also the role of the Local Enterprise Partnership, working with refugee organisations to ensure cost effective support. Access to education at all levels is essential to provide refugees with much-needed skills but also to advance the process of integration in wider society. The Metro Mayor should work with schools, Further Education Colleges and Universities in the region to ensure fair access for refugees. 
 
4) Transport 
 
Refugees and asylum seekers can suffer from isolation and have problems in accessing training, employment, public services and also in ensuring social and cultural integration, due to poor and expensive public transport. Investment in public transport will help address this problem and the Metro Mayor should liaise with refugee organisations within the region to ensure that their specific needs are reflected in the details of the planned investment and provision. 
 
5) Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children 
 
The Metro Mayor should work with the three authorities to coordinate a regional response to welcoming and meeting the needs of UASC, ensuring that they are safe and cared for, and that when they reach adulthood their status is confirmed, they have in place a clear education and training plan and are able to progress into employment with the right level of mentoring support. 
 
6) Community Cohesion 
 
There has been a significant rise in hate crime in the region over the last year. The Metro Mayor is in a unique position to raise awareness of refugee issues within the wider community, build a culture of welcome, safety and inclusion for all in the region, share good practice from Bristol, a declared city of sanctuary, and to support the development of community cohesion initiatives that support integration and promote intercultural and interfaith tolerance and understanding. 
 
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