Working with Refugees and Asylum Seekers

York St John – University of Sanctuary

York St John University was granted University Sanctuary status in October 2018 having reviewed the range of activities that are taking place and growing all the time. YSJ joins a small group of Universities nationally and is only the third University in the North of England.

The University works in close collaboration with other educational and public sector organisations as well as through the networks established by those organisations directly working in this field such as RAY (Refugee Action York) and the sanctuary movement.  

Here are some examples of the work that is being done:

  • Free language tuition led by students throughout the year co-ordinated with that provided by other establishments
  • Working with schools to provide EAL tuition and mentoring support
  • Language mentoring and buddying schemes
  • Visiting dispersal centres and providing a range of creative and artistic activities
  • Granting a sanctuary scholarship
  • Providing sports training for young people at Haxby Road
  • Sponsorship of Refugee Week York (17-24 June)
  • Fundraising
  • Plans for drop-in sessions at YSJ
  • Research into experiences of asylum seekers and refugees
  • Curriculum materials developed for social enterprise programmes for refugees
  • Cross-agency volunteer training
  • Offer of an allotment on Haxby Road for asylum seekers
  • Liaison and on-going dialogue with York University regarding information and processes of HE application.


The Universities of Sanctuary Movement

The Universities of Sanctuary movement grew out of the City of Sanctuary movement which started in Sheffield in 2007 and which has grown to include almost 80 towns and cities and has spawned a network of organisations with groups covering all areas of the United Kingdom. The Syrian crisis of 2015 has seen a dramatic increase in awareness of, and engagement with, the plight of refugees and asylum seekers.

Universities, students and staff are looking at ways they can make their place of education more accessible and welcoming to asylum seekers and refugees, looking at bursaries, fee waivers, access to facilities and clubs, language tandem projects, accommodation and so much more. There is a handbook which provides examples of outstanding work that has already been done by institutions. It covers the range of work that can be done by management, Schools, and other staff, the Students’ Union and the whole community beyond the campus. 

York City of Sanctuary

York became a City of Sanctuary on 1 October 2016 and the organisation is now registered as a charity. York is also a Human Rights City.  There are a range of organisations addressing the needs of refugees and asylum seekers including RAY (Refugee Action York) which works with and for all asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in and around the City of York. Other significant organisations include York Racial Equality Network, York City Council and York Interfaith Group, Amnesty International (York) and Yorkshire Aid.

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