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Waltham Forest becomes sanctuary borough for refugees

Last week the council opened a welcome hub at Lea Bridge Library dedicated to supporting refugee arrivals

Council leader Grace Williams (centre) with community volunteers Mo (left) and Talal (right) at the Welcome Hub opening last week (14th Dec), Credit: Waltham Forest Council

Waltham Forest Council has successfully applied to become a sanctuary borough for refugees and last week opened a welcome hub at Lea Bridge Library to support arrivals.

As a Borough of Sanctuary, the council will follow the principles of the City of Sanctuary movement, working with community and statutory organisations as well as individuals with lived experience of seeking refuge.

The new Welcome Hub, in Lea Bridge Library, on Thursday 14th December opened with a visit from London’s Deputy Mayor for Communities and Social Justice, Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard. The hub aims to provides support across a range of areas to residents from refugee and migrant backgrounds, including people seeking asylum.

Cllr Grace Williams said: “I’m proud that we have been recognised as an official Borough of Sanctuary. Waltham Forest has gained so much from people who have come here from around the world and enriched our community.

“We want to make all people arriving in the borough to feel welcome, acknowledge the trauma they have been through to get here, and help them rebuild their lives. One of the priorities of any local authority should be to provide essential support for residents in times of need, and our new Welcome Hub is just one of the ways we can ensure all migrants and refugees are welcomed and have access to the support they need to make a good life for themselves and their families in Waltham Forest.”

Over the last few years, the borough has welcomed refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Syria who all arrived as part of the government’s dedicated resettlement schemes. More than 400 people seeking asylum, including children, have been placed in two contingency hotels in the borough by the Home Office.