Refugee Week 17-23 June 2019 “You, me and those who came before”
This Refugee Week we are invited to discover the experiences of displacement that are found in our families, neighbourhoods and history. The theme for the week ‘You, me and those who came before’, is an invitation to explore the lives of refugees – and those who have welcomed them – throughout the generations.
People escaping war and persecution have been welcomed by communities in the UK for hundreds of years, and their stories and contributions are all around us. From the Jewish refugees of the 1930s to people fleeing Vietnam in the 1970s, to people from Bosnia Herzegovina in the 1990s to those arriving today; they are part of who we all are and Derby is no exception with a long history of welcoming those who have come to the city seeking asylum.
As far back as the late eighth century St Alkmund came here as a political refugee fleeing from Northumbria and in 1540 All Saints Derby ( now the Cathedral) was one of only eight churches allowed to keep their status as special sanctuaries – it was abolished everywhere else by Henry VIII .
Many communities have made their home in Derby during the last century after two world wars including the Polish and Ukrainian communities. Between 1979 and 1994 about 1,600 refugees from Vietnam and the Hong Kong refugee camps came to the Cedars Derby Reception Centre hostel on Breadsall Hilltop run by Refugee Action under a family reunion scheme. The majority of them left Derby to join existing family in London, Manchester and Birmingham but some have remained here. Between 1994 and 1997 the Reception Centre received around 300 refugees from Bosnia Herzegovina, most of whom have stayed in the city and made their home here with their own flourishing Centre and Community Association. They speak highly of the welcome offered to them by the city of Derby and have contributed greatly to the well being of Derby. The Cedars Reception Centre provided accommodation, initial support and English language classes for everyone and was leased from the Council rent free. After its closure in 1997 newer communities have come to the city and have been made welcome, including refugees from Kosova, Albania, Iraq, Kurdistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Sri Lanka, the DRC, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, China, Pakistan and Syria. Refugee Action continued to have a presence in Derby for a few years until its funding was cut. In response to the increasing need to support those seeking sanctuary in the city, the Derby Refugee Forum / Advice Centre was formed in 2000, Upbeat Communities in 2005 and Red Cross Support in Derby in 2011.
In 2014 the Derby City of Sanctuary network was launched as an umbrella group supporting the refugee organisations across the city and also working with different groups and organisations, including faith communities, businesses, schools, the University, Derby Theatre, the Museum and colleges to create a climate of welcome and support for those seeking sanctuary in Derby and Derbyshire. In December 2014 the Cathedral became the first Cathedral of Sanctuary in England. The Derby City of Sanctuary network also coordinates the programme for Refugee Week for the city.
This year Derby has again a great programme of events, some of which are listed below. There will be a full brochure available nearer the time. All events are free unless indicated. You are warmly invited to join in the week as we bring together young and old, those who have been here for decades and those who have just arrived – and discover what we can learn from those who sought safety in Britain generations ago.
Maureen Priddin. Derby City of Sanctuary network. “proud to welcome and support those seeking sanctuary in Derby/s”