Ealing has always been a haven for those escaping persecution and war, and now it is taking a significant step to solidify its commitment to become a ‘Borough of Sanctuary’.
Councillor Polly Knewstub proposed a motion during the recent council meeting on June 13, aiming to establish Ealing as a recognised borough.
Councillor Knewstub, cabinet member for thriving communities, expressed Ealing’s pride in its diversity and history of embracing individuals seeking safety within its borders. She acknowledged the pressing issues within the UK asylum system, including a record backlog of cases, limited employment opportunities, and the resulting poverty and homelessness that directly affect people in Ealing.
Moved by the personal stories shared by colleagues who have made Ealing their home, the council unanimously decided to work towards achieving recognition as a Borough of Sanctuary as soon as possible. The motion also called on the government to withdraw the UK-Rwanda agreement, repeal the Nationality and Borders Act, and collaborate with local authorities and communities to establish a refugee protection system that upholds dignity and compassion for all.
Councillor Polly Knewstub remarked, “It was moving to hear of the personal experiences of so many colleagues who have made Ealing their home, and we are collectively very pleased that Ealing Council has taken the decision to work towards recognition as a Borough of Sanctuary as soon as possible.”
Ealing’s councillors, representing the borough’s diverse population, shared their own journeys of seeking sanctuary during the council meeting. Their heartfelt accounts shed light on the courage, resilience, and hope that refugees embody.
Councillor Shital Manro, whose family arrived as refugees from Uganda in 1972, shared their touching story: “We arrived in this country on a cold October day in Gatwick airport and my father was only allowed to bring £50 with him. Me, my father, my mother, and my five siblings arrived at Gatwick, and the reception we got was brilliant, people looked after us and helped us.”
Councillor Rima Baaklini, reflecting on her personal experience, said, “Arriving to Ealing in 2001, I was welcomed with open arms and was given a chance to further my education with lots of opportunities I could only dream of as a child. Today, 33 years later, my husband and I have a beautiful family and have been living in Ealing for over two decades.”
Councillor Bassam Mahfouz shared his poignant perspective, saying, “Refugees may have come here having lost their homes, their jobs, sometimes even their families, but they still have their experiences and skills, they still have opinions, memories, dreams, loves, and they still have their determination to build a good life.”