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New City Centre Hub gives sanctuary to asylum seekers and refugees

Published: 8th November 2021 15:49
A new Portsmouth city centre hub at St Luke’s Church invites refugees and asylum seekers to meet, network, and receive immediate support in a safe, dignified and accessible space.

 The new ‘Refugee Sanctuary Hub’ led by Portsmouth City of Sanctuary (PCoS) launched in October and was opened by the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth.

It is a multi-agency initiative supported by the Medaille Trust, Citizen's Advice Portsmouth (CAP), VISTA at Harbour Church, and Baby Basics, who have come together with Portsmouth City of Sanctuary to offer free ‘one-stop-shop’ services to those seeking sanctuary. The community served is mainly forced migrants who are escaping violence and persecution, finding themselves disadvantaged, disorientated or isolated in the city.  The welcoming Hub is free of charge providing refreshments and gifts to visitors when they are available.

Every week caseworkers provide advice on various issues ranging from school admissions, LGBTQ+ advice, registering with a GP, joining a community group such as a gardening project or book club. Shamila Dhana who leads the team ensures that orientation caseworkers’ signpost and refer asylum seekers to various statutory and non-statutory agencies within the city. In combination, these agencies will provide a holistic, person-centred service.

In addition, the weekly Hub aims to host an immigration solicitor, a barber, a GP, a baby bank and an MP on a monthly basis. 

Working for the Moving On project at the Medaille Trust, Babette Clarke, said “We support women who are survivors of human trafficking and modern slavery. I think this partnership is going to bring such a beautiful space of openness for anybody in the community that needs help. That’s what is really important - that anyone can turn up and be treated with respect and dignity, and hopefully we can signpost them to get the help need, or just come along and have a warm cup of tea and a chat.”

 The Hub will not only benefit this community, but partner organisations, creating a working network of invaluable support, based in one place in the city centre. It is close to the HIVE, CAP, University of Portsmouth, Central Library, council offices and has excellent transport links. With the help of their partners, Portsmouth City of Sanctuary are leading significant projects for migrant families and at-risk women in particular, and the St Luke's shared co-worker space will become a welcoming and galvanising location, positively reinforcing the wellbeing of everyone who comes, including the many volunteers who work with them.

Phil Marshall is the Immigration Service Project Manager at Citizens Advice Portsmouth and commented. "CAP is delighted to provide support services to the Refugee Sanctuary Hub, which comes at a time where support for the asylum seeker and refugee community is critical. We are proud to be part of this fantastic collaborative community initiative.”

Another organisation involved in the scheme is Baby Basics, a baby bank that provide essential items to families. Their regional hub leader for the South, Diane Urquhart, said “This partnership means that we can get to the real core of the needs of people of the city, and we’ll be able to take quicker and slicker action to provide a better service, at the same time as gaining a better understanding of the families’ needs.”

Miriam Hargreaves said the Hub is a really exciting opportunity. “We’re thrilled about it, we at VISTA are about supporting women in the sex industry, offering a safe space for them here, whatever they’ve come from, people can come together for care and support, and we are really pleased about working in one place with our partner organisations”.

The new ‘Refugee Sanctuary Hub’ is free and open every Monday from 10.30am-12.30pm at St. Luke's Church, Greetham Street, Southsea.

The Hub is supported by partners and funding from local donations.  If you would like to donate please contact portsmouthcityofsanctuary@gmail.com

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