Lambeth celebrates World Refugee Day

27 June 2023

Written by: Lambeth Council

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Lambeth celebrates the first World Refugee Day since becoming a Borough of Sanctuary with a promise to continue being a place of welcome.

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Lambeth celebrates World Refugee Day

For World Refugee Day, Lambeth Council invited sanctuary seekers, Cabinet members and councillors, representatives of charities helping refugees, and London councils on the journey to become Boroughs of Sanctuary to an evening of celebration.

Art from Lambeth schools

The Assembly Hall was decorated with artwork from Lambeth schools on the World Refugee Day theme of compassion  – with messages of Freedom, Democracy, Equity, and Human Rights.

Word from the Mayor

Mayor of Lambeth, Cllr Starbaz Barznji, said: “I stand before you this World Refugee Day as mayor of this incredible community. Lambeth has always embraced people born in other countries. We believe that, while being a refugee may be a chapter in someone’s life, it doesn’t define who they are. Sanctuary seekers bring all kinds of talents to our community, and may need some support from the community in return.

“My personal journey is that I arrived in the UK as a Kurdish refugee, with just the clothes on my back and not a word of English – but with a burning desire to build a better life. I found a community that gave me support, and I’m forever grateful for the inclusion. I pledge to continue this spirit of inclusion.

“The message of compassion is especially valuable this year, when there is a powerful false narrative of division, telling us that sanctuary seekers come here to take from our community. In Lambeth we believe we have more in common than separating us. This is your home and you are welcome here. We’re here to reaffirm Lambeth’s commitment to supporting sanctuary seekers – let us stand together.”

Seeker’s story

Journey Makers story front cover

Storybook written by Sanctuary Seeker

Guest speaker Sara spoke as a recent arrival to the UK: “I’ve loved visiting London before, but if you asked me if I wanted to stay, I’d say ‘no, my home is Khartoum’. Then nine weeks ago the shelling started. We slept under our beds for safety, we fled our home at gunpoint. We walked for four days to the airport and came here in slippers, with no shoes. I’ve met with nothing but kindness and support in Lambeth. Now I want to make a life here helping other people.”

City of Sanctuary

Maggie Filipova-Rivers from City of Sanctuary UK invited everyone to “celebrate the contributions Lambeth is making to actively showing compassion – compassion is not the same as empathy, or sharing someone’s suffering. Compassion means you have the energy to help. That’s Lambeth – just look at the progress on schools of sanctuary, safe surgeries, overcoming the digital divide for sanctuary seekers –  and challenging dysfunctional policies.”


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