Sanctuary in Deal


Sanctuary in Deal

The UK has a proud tradition of offering sanctuary to those in need, from Huguenots facing religious persecution in France in the seventeenth century, to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in the Second World War, right up to the present day with people fleeing the Syrian regime.

Given that Deal’s motto is ‘Befriend the Stranger’, we are keen to provide a warm welcome to all who come to our town. Befriending the stranger is an important way to break down barriers, reduce fear of the unknown and celebrate our differences and our similarities.

Historically, Deal has offered sanctuary to those in need. Belgian refugees in the first World War were welcomed by the Mayor of the time, Charles Hussey, and were generously assisted by the townsfolk.

Recently, there has been significant media attention on Deal and neighbouring towns and villages on the southeast coastline, with small boat landings bringing people seeking sanctuary to our shores. We think it is important to dispel some of the myths about refugees and the asylum system that abound.

UK lawyers were instrumental in drafting the 1951 Refugee Convention just after the Second World War. There was a determination to ensure that such atrocities as had happened in the war should never happen again and that protection should be available to those fleeing persecution. It defined a refugee as: “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Some information about refugees and the asylum system

à Asylum is a right under international law. It is a requirement to move outside your country to qualify for asylum – there is no visa for refugees. Seeking asylum is perfectly legal.

à There is no requirement under the law for people fleeing persecution to seek asylum in any particular country, though in fact most refugees go to countries neighbouring the one they fled.

à The UK is home to only 1% of the world’s 29.6 million refugees. The 1% statistic has remained fairly constant for the last 20 years.

à A person seeking asylum in the UK (an asylum-seeker) is someone whose application to be considered as a refugee has yet to be decided.

à People seeking asylum are not allowed to work, nor are they able to access mainstream UK benefits. If they do not have family or friends who can support them financially, they can access asylum support. This works out as £5 per day on a prepayment card that can be used to buy food and other essentials.

à People seeking asylum who have no place to stay can access asylum accommodation. This is very basic accommodation in shared rooms with shared facilities operated by Home Office contractors.

à Under the government’s dispersal policy, people seeking asylum are dispersed across the UK. In practice this means that no adults arriving in Kent are accommodated in the county whilst their applications are being considered.

à Unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people are looked after by the county as ‘children in need’. Kent County Council receives funding from the government to provide this care function.

à There were 35,099 asylum applications in the UK in the year ending March 2020

à Being granted asylum means you have met the strict legal criteria to be recognised as a refugee – a person in need of international protection.

à 53% of asylum applications in the year ending June 2020 resulted in a grant of asylum or other form of protection.

à Many people fleeing persecution don’t know where they will end up – the route being determined by the person sending them to safety, chance, people smugglers or a combination of these.

à Reasons why people who intentionally come to the UK to seek asylum include: having family or friends here; an established diaspora community in the UK; having colonial ties to the UK; having worked with UK national / authorities in their home countries; having some English language skills and the UK’s international reputation for upholding human rights. There is no evidence to suggest that the UK is seen as a ‘soft touch’.

à Refugees contribute to society in many ways both culturally and economically. For example, there are about 1,200 medically qualified refugees recorded on the British Medical Association’s database.

Deal Town Council is committed to continuing to befriend the Stranger. We support the work of the East Kent Network of Sanctuary and we are actively seeking ways in which we can support and improve our welcome. We have been looking at ways in which our seaside location might lend itself to respite breaks for people seeking asylum. Individuals, groups or businesses interested in collaborating on such a project in a post-COVID context should get in touch with the Town Clerk.

We are really proud of our local schools who have gained School of Sanctuary Status:

Sandown School

Deal Parochial CE Primary

Useful Links and further reading