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February 09, 2024

A Valentine’s letter to Lewisham’s Mayoral Candidates

A group of LRMN's community of refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers have written publicly to Lewisham’s prospective candidates to ask that the new Mayor continues to uphold the borough’s commitment to being a Borough of Sanctuary.

Together, the authors of the letter represent at least 50 campaigners from refugee, migrant and asylum seeking backgrounds. 
In their letter, they draw attention to four key areas of focus: access to healthcare, housing and navigating complex systems, investing in skills and employability, and support for people who have experienced domestic abuse and violence. 

Read the letter below

Dear Mayoral Candidates for Lewisham,

We would like to congratulate you on your selection as candidates for Lewisham Mayor! We are proud that Lewisham is the first Borough of Sanctuary, and of the work that Lewisham Council has done to build a culture of welcome.

As you know, ensuring everyone is able to thrive in our community, regardless of their immigration status, is an important part of building safety for all.

Valentine’s Day is all about showing up for people and the communities we care about – and as you are standing to be Lewisham’s Mayor, we know you care about us – Lewisham’s community of migrants, refugees, and sanctuary seekers. 

We’re writing to you as part of the Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network Community Forum, a group of over 50 sanctuary seekers who come together to advocate for ourselves and our communities.

Together with the Council, our neighbours, our businesses, and our partners, we are building a Lewisham that is proud to be a place of sanctuary. Over the years, our borough has resettled over 100 families, provided free school meals for those in the most precarious situations, improved access to healthcare, taken down barriers to accessing vital services, and advocated for communities of sanctuary seekers nationally.

We hope that Lewisham’s next Mayor will continue this work. For us, there are a number of priorities that we hope you will put your efforts behind. Here are some messages from our members:

“Dear Mayoral Candidates, access to healthcare is vital, but there are so many barriers to accessing this service. Having no access to public safety nets is a health issue. We want to see the Council advocating for healthcare for all, ensuring travel costs and immigration status are not a barrier to my health and wellbeing.”

“Dear Mayoral Candidates, I live in temporary accommodation and I have been moved out of the borough. Housing is a real challenge for me and my children, and the system is very unclear. It’s hard to navigate all of the services available to me. Let’s focus on improving clarity of systems, so everyone can understand them.”

“Dear Mayoral Candidates, I often feel that I am unable to make progress in my life. I’d like to see the Council invest in skills and English classes for all sanctuary seekers, especially those who are excluded from public safety nets. This will help us all to move forward, and to be a greater part of our community.”

“Dear Mayoral Candidates, I’ve lived through abuse and feel unseen in the current system. If people have nowhere to go, they stay and suffer the consequences. Can we save lives and address the barriers that sanctuary seeking communities often face when trying to get help?”

We are excited to continue our existing relationship with the Council, working together to ensure no one encounters borders in their daily lives. We know that housing is of particular concern to all the people of Lewisham. That’s why we hope the next Mayor will continue engaging with us on improving housing conditions for members of our community, particularly thinking about improving digital access for those in temporary accommodation.

Let’s push Lewisham to become even more inclusive and safe to sanctuary seekers! 

Will you publicly express your support for sanctuary seekers, and commit to attending the Lewisham Migration Forum, to spread love and support this Valentine’s Day?


Best regards,

The Community Forum