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Cllr Shital Manro sitting outside a cafe in Ealing Broadway

A borough of sanctuary and a place to call home

Having a coffee and a chat in the high street is something most of us take for granted. But for those escaping persecution and war, it is more like a dream.

Offering safety and refuge is something our borough has stepped up to do on a regular basis. And, Ealing Council has now agreed it intends to work to gain the status of a recognised Borough of Sanctuary.

The Borough of Sanctuary scheme is part of the national City of Sanctuary movement, which aims to create a network of places throughout the UK that are proud to be places of safety and inclusion for people forced to flee their homes.

Several councillors have personal experience of seeking sanctuary in the UK.

This includes Councillor Shital Manro, cabinet member for good growth. He said: “My family came as refugees from Uganda in 1972. 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.”

Driven out of homes

He told Around Ealing how he remembered soldiers going from house to house and dragging people out of their homes as the family fled the exodus of Asians from Uganda that had been ordered by brutal dictator Idi Amin.

It left a permanent mark on Councillor Manro’s father, but it also drove his son’s move into politics.
“Those of us driven out of Uganda didn’t have a voice,” Shital said. “There were lots of families just focusing on running their businesses and, when it came to it, they didn’t have any levers to pull or any way to respond.

“It made me realise just how important it is to get involved in political life and to have a voice in shaping the community we live in. That is why I stood as a councillor in the 1990s and why I am still one today, more than 20 years later.”

‘Problems with asylum system’

The original motion to become a Borough of Sanctuary was proposed by Councillor Polly Knewstub, cabinet member for thriving communities, who said the borough’s diversity was one of its strengths, and added: “We have a proud history of embracing individuals seeking safety within our borough.”

The council also sent a letter to the Home Secretary calling on the government to:
• withdraw the UK-Rwanda agreement for failed asylum applicants to be sent to Rwanda for processing
• repeal the Nationality and Borders Act
• and work with local authorities to build a refugee protection system.

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